Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy (centre)??stand with Captain Ricardo Ferrari (third from left), pilot of the?? GOL flight from Sao Paulo Brazil??and his crew and pose with??plaque signalling the inaugural??landing of??that airline at the Grantley Adams International Airport.??

Brazil’s emergence as a powerhouse economy in this century must be seriously viewed as a market for Barbados to tap into.

This was intimated last Saturday by this island’s Tourism Minister, Richard Sealy, following his arrival at the Grantley Adams international Airport aboard the inaugural GOL Linhas A??reas Inteligentes direct flight from Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Addressing the media at a press conference in the Grace Adams Suite, he noted that Brazil, with its affluence and "more people willing to travel and looking for experiences" was a new tourism possibility that should be carefully examined.

Recounting his four-day experience in Brazil, Minister Sealy said: "There is a buzz among the travel trade in Brazil that tells us we are onto something and that we are developing something", adding that this was not only in Brazil, but also in Argentina. "Argentina doesn’t want to be left out. This inaugural [flight] had bookings from Argentina, so we are already seeing benefits going beyond Brazil and, therefore, we are developing, yes, the huge market of Brazil, but we are in fact looking at the entire South American cone and I think that that is good for Barbados as we develop our tourism into the future."

Noting that there were collateral benefits to be achieved from the GOL flight, particularly with respect to trade, the Tourism Minister stated: "Moving from 500 to 5000 per year would mean a narrowing of the imbalance, at the same time there are so many opportunities for our business community, the cultural aspect, sports teams and opportunities for Brazilians to learn English and Barbadians to learn Portuguese."

He indicated too that it offered the opportunity to correct the huge trade imbalance currently in existence, where some US $60 million in goods, mainly wood, paper and some industrial products, were imported here annually with only under US $1 million exported to that country.

Minister Sealy remarked: "Clearly, with a direct flight there’s the opportunity to reduce that imbalance and I think our businessmen are quite excited about the possibilities of that flight into the largest city of Brazil.

"And, with the possibility of connecting to the second largest city Rio De Janeiro without paying an additional cent… you change flights in Sao Paulo to go there, if that was one’s final destination of choice."

He further maintained that excitement had already been created in the region as LIAT and GOL were now involved in extensive discussions and were looking at ways and means to harmonise their schedules "so that we can have regional traffic going into Brazil and coming back out."

"We are already functioning as a hub in terms of flights going to the United Kingdom and North America so indeed if we can now add Brazil to that, we think it is another possibility and to help LIAT with the challenges to develop that regional traffic as well.

"I truly believe we are blazing a new trail for Barbados’ tourism tonight (Saturday night) and only good things can come from this possibility. It fits right in with Government’s strategy, in terms of trying to broaden our source markets, and we are going to be looking at other possibilities. We are looking at our air links as well and what

we can do with the existing markets. Greater air connections into Barbados are critically important and we will continue to do that work for all of the people of Barbados," Mr. Sealy stressed.

Meanwhile, Director of Planning and Statistics for GOL, Mauricio Emboaba, in giving a historical perspective on the inaugural GOL flight, explained that the moment started with discussion some nine months ago and the flight was "the first step and a very promising one".

He remarked that Brazil was the fifth largest market in the world with 60 million boardings every year in the domestic market and about 100 million in the total sector including international flights. Noting that GOL, itself, commanded some 40 per cent of that market, Mr. Emboaba said???? this was "a good slice of the cake", considering that it was a low cost carrier that had started out with six aircraft, about a decade ago.

Disclosing that the current fleet which stood at 109 aircraft was expected to grow to 111 by year-end, Mr. Emboaba stressed that this would also benefit the island.

The inaugural GOL flight was piloted by Captain Ricardo Ferrari. The Minister was accompanied by Ambassador of Barbados to Brazil, Yvette Goddard, senior tourism officials including President of the Barbados Tourism Authority, David M. Rice; members of the Brazilian and local media, as well as a large cross section of Brazilians, many here for the first time. The delegation was greeted by Minister of International Business and International Transport, George Hutson, Ambassador of Brazil to Barbados, Appio Cludio Acquarone and other officials from the tourism industry.

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