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Area: 169 km2
Population: 712,317 , of which 334,355 are male and 377,962 are female
People who are born in Natal are called natalenses; those who are born in the state of Rio Grande do Norte are called potiguares, which in the indian tupi language means "people who eat shrimps".
Statistics on Natal: the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) makes public the results of their periodic census; visit the IBGE website (some sections have an English version).
IBGE also breaks out information by cities (in Portuguese only); check out the IBGE statistics about NATAL.
History: take a look at a brief History of Natal. If you can read Portuguese, take a look at this comprehensive work about the History of Rio Grande do Norte

Natal is becoming a major destination for Brazilian tourists
Natal has always been an island of tranquility in Brazil; the sunny beaches always attracted tourists from all around the country.
However, Natal used to have a problem: poor infra-structure; those who, like me, came here for the first time about 15 years ago, had to cope with the lack of hotels and restaurants, absolute absence of information, the innefective transportation system, etc.
Years of good management and the perception that tourism was its greatest potential have drastically changed Natal: there are many more hotels, restaurants and every kind of tourism related business; transportation and communication systems are much better; more and more natalenses know how important the tourists are for the economy, and this reflects on the way (which was already warm) that they treat visitants.
Surveys start to show that the tourists are already noticing the changes in Natal.
Embratur is the federal Brazilian agency in charge of promoting tourism in Brazil, both domestic and international; the website is http://www.embratur.gov.br.
Among several other studies of several kinds, Embratur periodically conduts surveys among tourists to picture the Brazilian tourism market; the last such survey was in 2,001. Click to access the
Survey on Domestic Tourism, year 2001 (PDF format).
The Table #40, page 83 of the report, shows that Natal is already the 5th tourist destination in Brazil.
Only Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Fortaleza and Salvador receive more people than Natal.
Moreover, the same survey shows that the state of Rio Grande do Norte is seeing the influx of tourists growing faster than other state. See Table #36, which ranks states by number of tourists. Check out column "Destinos" (Destinations); from 1998 to 2001, the participation of RN grew from 2,32 to 3,38%. The states of SP, RJ and MG gained share, while most others lost.
Embratur doesn't explain the reasons, but the economic crisis may have forced people to travel to closer cities.

What other travellers say about Natal Read what Virtual Tourist say about Natal

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