|Christ the Redeemer Statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro. (Ministry of Tourism – Brazil)|
For many Barbadians, familiarity with Brazil may be limited to what has been heard in folklore, forever linked to the tune which told of Millie taking a trip to that South American country. However, for those with a sense of adventure and a desire for something new, it is the land of "the greatest show on earth" (carnival), Pel??, the Amazon, Ipanema, mountains, rivers, waterfalls – and yes, shopping.
Last June, the inaugural GOL Airlines flight from S??o Paulo, Brazil ushered in a new era of travel from Barbados to Brazil, transforming what used to be a near day-long expedition with multiple stops, into a direct, six hour flight, which lands in Barbados once a week.
Some of the most recent visitors from Brazil, the samba group Sociedade Rosas de Ouro, were invited by the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA) and the Ministry of Tourism to experience our culture first hand, and to share a bit of their own.?? It was during one of their final performances on the island that Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, challenged Barbadians to move beyond the north and look south when considering vacation options.
Vice President for the Caribbean and Latin America with the BTA, Walter??Stokes, has echoed a similar sentiment, assuring Barbadians that getting to Brazil is as simple as it is enjoyable.
" A reservation on GOL [Airlines website] to S??o Paulo,?? or beyond their gateway city to Brazil, may be done through a local travel agent in Barbados, or directly with the airline via its online web site, www.voegol.com.br/int/Paginas/home.aspx.??Remember to select "Other Countries" in the upper left hand corner of the web site for the English version," Mr. Stokes advised.??
The VP added that while there were some limitations with online bookings, those issues would be rectified before the end of the year.?? "Currently, the only form of payment that is accepted for tickets purchased via GOL, through their telephone reservation system or via the web site, is an American Express card. GOL has been diligently working to include other forms [of] payment from Barbados and other international destinations [and] has indicated that they anticipate that by mid-October this problem should be resolved," Mr. Stokes revealed.
|Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro (Ministry of Tourism – Brazil)|
For those who may have an interest in visiting Latin America’s largest country, there should be no concerns about the language barrier.
"Brazilians, by nature, are?? very warm and welcoming of visitors and Barbadians will be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to navigate around many of the large cities in Brazil, such as S??o Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and [the capital] Brasilia. Hotels and the tourism industry in general, in Brazil, cater to foreigners. English is quite prevalent in the main touristic and business locations …and Barbadians should not have any great challenges communicating," he observed.
He also encouraged those tempted to explore the Portuguese-speaking land’s various cities to engage with the tour operators in that country.
"Tour operators from S??o Paulo [and] Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Buenos Aires, Argentina, have visited Barbados on several occasions within the last six months to develop a working relationship with hotels, ground operators and travel agencies.
Several of the tour operators from both Brazil and Argentina have the
capability of organising or providing accommodation and tours throughout many of their business and tourist destinations.
"Over the past year, there has been growing interest from Barbadians to learn more about tourism, shopping and business opportunities in both Brazil and Argentina. Accommodation in both countries may be booked through a travel agent in Barbados or through a hotel’s web site directly," Mr. Stokes offered.
He also explained that exploring Brazil’s numerous cities and neighbouring countries was made easy by having S??o Paulo as a starting point.
"One of the great strengths of Brazil is the ease of air travel, which allows Barbadians the opportunity to visit not only S??o Paulo, but to comfortably visit another city in the country before returning to Barbados.??
"GOL’s major hub is at S??o Paulo’s international airport. The flight from Barbados arrives in S??o Paulo,?? allowing passengers … to connect with the first flight of the day to [other] destinations…Some of the major cities that can be reached are Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre, Brasilia, Salvador [in Brazil] and Buenos Aires [in Argentina]," he explained.
An added bonus to travelling to Brazil is that the trip can be an impromptu one, as Barbadian nationals are not required to have a visa for tourist visits of up to three months.?? There are vaccination requirements, however, which may be confirmed with the Embassy of Brazil here in Barbados.
In short, this South American country represents 3.3 million square miles of possibilities – from the Amazon rainforest in the West, to the bustling, business metropolis of S??o Paulo in the South, to what is considered the cultural epicentre, Salvador Bahia, in the Northeast; and for those who accept Minister Sealy’s challenge to head south for a different kind of vacation, those possibilities, and more, are a reality.