Natal Brazil

Information about the city of Natal, in Brazil.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Tourism in Natal suffers with lack of planning

Newspaper Tribuna do Norte published today, December 30th, an article called "Lack of planning is the biggest problem of tourism in Rio Grande do Norte".

The report describes how Natal still receives many tourists, attracted by a set of features not easily found anywhere in the world: sun, beaches, peaceful people, absence of cataclisms. If there were professional management of the Tourism business in Natal, the area would be one of the most important tourist centers in the world; however, because tourism in the Goverment levels is commanded more by personal interests than professional merits, the result is a lack of planning (and actions) which brings more and more uncertainty to the future of Natal as a world tourism destination.

The text below is paraphrased from the original.

"The charter flight coming from England is 15 hours late. This is not news neither for the passengers embarking in London, nor for the staff of Infraero (airport management) which work in Natal.

But there is one thing which surprises Gina Robinson, a representative of the Secretary of Tourism of Rio Grande do Norte who arrives in the flight: a escalator which goes the wrong way. When passengers disembarked, at 5 am in the morning, there was nobody to provide assistance, and the only way to get upstairs was climbing the escalator which was rolling down. As the passengers were not used to open doors without authorization, they were surprised to see Gina calling for someone from staff to open the doors and start working with the luggage.

And there are more things in the Airport Augusto Severo that need fixing. The air conditioning, for example, has been broken for months (in a city where temperatures about 100 degrees F or 35 degrees C are common); the cost of fixing it would be R$ 200 thousand (about US$ 110 thousand), but Infraero doesn't seem to have the money (the boarding tax in Brazil, which goes entirely to Infraero, is one of the highest in the world). According to Mário Barreto, President of Via Costeira Hotels Association, the airport is a wreckage.

One of the reasons is the lack of planning. The tourism authorities are trying to raise numbers for a report about the number of tourists coming to Natal, but not even this seems easy. Once again, there are talks about a joint action between the city and the State (someone discovered that there are no bus lines between the airport to the city, which obliges passengers to pay outrageous taxi fares or pay for closed packages to tour operators); this time, talks include the help of Federal funds, as the Ministry of Tourism also seems to have found out that Tourism can be a good business for Brazil.

And, as in previous years, the lack of reliable statistics creates rumors about the actual number of guests in the hotels of Natal. Every year, hotel owners claim that business are not doing well, and ask for more Government action, support and subsides. In the beginning of 2007, the Association of Hotels forecasted "the worst year for the hotels in 21 years", but at the end of the year several hotels in Via Hosteira claimed a "very successful year". Now, again, the hotels say that "2008 won't be good; the dollar is down, the air traffic in Brazil is still a mess, more and more tourists are staying in cruising ships (rather than hotels)". But, as Tribuna says, there are more and more hotels being built, and very few have been closed down.

Hotels are again asking for more promotion: "we have to attract again the European passengers". The Secretary of Tourism says that the priority should be attract the Brazilian travelers, particularly the business travelers."
Note from Natal-Brazil: last year (2007) was quieter than the previous one (2006); and this year, so far, is quieter than last year. Natal is still sunny, beautiful, cheap and peaceful, and this downtrend can turn out to be benefic for visitors.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Bridge Natal - Redinha is opened.

The new bridge Natal - Redinha was officially opened yesterday, November 20th 2007.

This is the longest and most beautiful bridge in Brazil (the bridge JK, in Brasilia, is also modern and beautiful, but the scenery in Natal is uncomparable better).

Besides being beautiful, it was planned to be useful. Before the bridge, there were two ways to get across the river Potengi: driving around the Northern bridge of Igapó or taking the ferry boat; the bridge will save about half an hour of thousands of drivers every day (the Transit Department estimates that about 25 thousand vehicles a day will use the bridge), and will hopefully bring economic progress to the Northern part of Natal.

Below, a few photos of the bridge.
Photos by Ivanízio Ramos, sponsored by the Government of Rio Grande do Norte; click the photos to view a much large image.

ponte natal

ponte natal

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Friday, June 29, 2007

New airport in São Gonçalo: no sooner than 2010

Another schedule was announced with regards to the new airport to be built in the city of São Gonçalo, about 30 km from Natal.
When finished, it should be one of the largest airports in Brazil. More specifically, due to its position (near Europe and North America), it should be the largest cargo hub in Brazil. Natal should benefit from the increase in tourism and trading.

Several schedules have been announced so far, but little has been done. The main problem is that the airport requires a lot of money, and neither the Governments nor the private sectors are willing to take the risks.

Recently, a new planning was announced (see report in Portuguese here).

The new idea is that BNDES (Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social - National Bank for Economic and Social Development), an official bank which fomments businesses by loaning subsidized money, will provide the necessary funds.
The building of the airport will be chartered to a private company, to be chosen by a bidding process. The winner will use BNDES money to build the airport, and will be granted the rights to explore the business for a period (yet to be determined) of 20 or 30 years. This model is different from most other airports in Brazil, which are built and managed by the Federal Government (through an agency called Infraero).
Besides charging taxes from air companies and passengers, the charterer will have rights over the Special Exporting Zone which will be built around the airport.

According to officials, the fact that the Government and its bureaucracy will not be involved with the works should speed up the process.
If everything goes as planned, the new airport should be (partially) operating before the end of 2010.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Exports of Rio Grande do Norte

The Secretary for Economic Development of Rio Grande do Norte released a report about the products exported by the State of Rio Grande do Norte; the original report, in Portuguese, is here.

According to the report, in the first five months of 2007, the total volume (in dollars) exported by the State grew by 12.7% in comparison to the same period of 2006, going from US$ 129 million to US$ 145.5 million.
The report doesn't take into account the steep devaluation of the dollar against the real in the period; that means that the volumes of cargo actually shipped increased by more than 12.7%.

It is also interesting to observe that the profile of exports consists basically of primary products, reflex of the low level of industrialization in the State.

The first item of exportaion was mellon, US$ 22.5 million, followed by shrimp, US$ 16.3 million. Next came cashew nuts, US$ 15.9 million, and banana (value not informed, but banana had the highest growth rate, 68%).

Only in 5th place is there a semi-elaborated product, sugar, US$ 9.7 million exported. Other products with more than US$ 1 million exported are iron ore and carnauba wax (carnauba is a kind of palm tree which grows in the interior of the State).

It is clear that, for good and for bad, the State of Rio Grande do Norte will not industrialized in the near future.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Two news: low quality education and high income concentration

Two news which are likely related.

On April 26th, the Federal Government published the results of Ideb (Index of development of Basic Education), which assess the quality of all schools (public and private) of the basic education in Brazil, which, at the time of the survey, was composed of eight years on elementary cycle (currently, it's nine) and three years of intermediary cycle.
From 1st to 4th grade, the State of Rio Grande do Norte had the worst results of all 27 States, tied with the States of Piauí and Bahia; the average grade of these States was 2.6, whereas the national average (which itself reflects the low level of Education in Brazil) was 3.9.
From 5th to 8th grade, the State was in 24th position, better than Pernambuco, Alagoas and Paraíba; the State average was 2.6, the national average was 3.3.
In the intermediary cycle, the average was also 2.6, against a national average of 3.0; the State was in 25th position.
When only the capitals are considered, Natal finished 26th in the elementary cycle and 21st in the intermediary cycle.
The city of Acari had the best score in the State, with an average of 4.7.
Newspaper Tribuna do Norte published more details about this survey on Education in Rio Grande do Norte.

On May 1st, another survey showed the other side of the coin: Rio Grande do Norte has the third worst index of income concentration in the country; only the State of Piauí and the Federal District (comprised of a rich nucleus, Brasilia, and a very poor periphery) are worse than RN.
The Gini Index, an attempt to turn income concentration into a number, is 0.578 (the higher, the worse); the average for Brazil, known for its high income concentration, is 0.552.
The 430,000 people in the poorer classes have an average income of R$ 160 per month; the 110,000 people in the richer classes have an average income of R$ 3.014 per month, nearly 19 times as much.
This same survey showed that 21.5% of the population of RN are officially illiterate, and other 32.3 are functionally illiterate (can only read and write little more than their own names).
More detailed article is here.

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