Foreigners moving to Brazil

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The article below was published by Veja, the most important Brazilian magazine, issue #1930, November 9th 2005. A link is here, in Portuguese and for subscribers only.

Foreigners who come for business, tourism and, more and more, to live in Brazil, are injecting a new energy into the northeastern coast of Brazil

The Northeast of Brazil found its avocation: to be the tropical paradise where Europeans spend and invest their euros. Portuguese, Spaniards, French, Italians, Germans and Scandinavian are invading the region to do business, spend holidays or enjoy their retirement in a place with pleasant climate and at prices much more affordable than those in Europe. This movement has two consequences. The first one is the increase in residential tourism. A few thousand foreigners are buying apartments and houses this side of the Atlantic - for holidays or even to live for good. In Ceará, out of each ten new apartments for sale with prices over R$ 50,000, three are purchased by foreigners. In Rio Grande do Norte, the Europeans bought 40% of the new houses and apartments sold last year.

Italian in Rio Grande do Norte
Italin lawyer Cristiana Penner, 33, will move
to Rio Grande do Norte

The other consequence of the invasion is the explosion of investments by European companies in the hotel, touristic and real estate sectors of the Northeast. In the coast of Bahia, seven tourist complexes will be built over the next two years. Other 28 enterprises of medium and large size should be opened by foreigners until 2010 in the coast of Rio Grande do Norte. In the next five years, the European investments in new hotels, resorts and condos should exceed R$ 4 billion (about US$ 1.8 billion), the equivalent to 8% of all foreigner investments that the entire Brazilian economy received last year.

Both groups of newcomers - investors and residents - are result of the same phenomen, namely the increase in the flux of European tourists in the region. Since the 1990s, the number of foreigner visitors in Bahia, Ceará and Rio Grande do Norte was multiplied by four. This increase draw the attention of corporations and hotel groups in Europe, which decided to build the infrastructure necessary to serve their country fellows in Brazilian territory. "Europe is a large market, and the interest on Brazil is growing more and more", says José Antonio Correia, from Portuguese group DDC, which is building a residential condom with thirteen apartment towers and 192 houses in the city of Eusébio, Ceará.

In Northeast, the tourists of today are the immigrants of tomorrow. A good part of foreigners who buy houses in the coast of Northeast is composed of visitors who came for holidays and ended up enchanted with the life style, the scenery and the local climate. "They buy residences because they want to spend more time in Brazil", says Secretary of Tourism of Ceará, Allan Aguiar. "Many of them are retired or want to start a small business over here". Having just retired in his home country, the Swiss Marc Dizerens and a French partner built the condo Baia Dourada (Golden Bay), in the south of Bahia. Half of the loots were already sold, all for foreigners.

It was always a belief that tourism is a natural avocation not only of the Northeast, but of entire Brazil. The country has varied sceneries, 2000 beaches and pleasant climate. The problem is that, despite it all, we receive per year less visitors than the Louvre Museum, in Paris, or the minuscule Cingapure, in Asia. If the Northeast is at last following its avocation, that's because over the last ten years some problems in infrastructure started to be solved. Over this period, new or refurbished roads, and works in basic sanitation permitted the investment in condos and resorts in beaches located far away from capitals.

Hotel school in Rio Grande do Norte
Hotel School

Also, efforts were made towards the formation of qualified work force. All the students of the cooking course of the Hotel School Senac in Natal have guaranteed jobs.
Another measure of impact in tourism was the refurbishment of the airports in the region. With the improvements in the aiports, there was a growth in the number of both regular and chartered international flights. Today, the airports of Salvador, Natal and Fortaleza receive, combined, 105 international flights per week, twice as many as in 2003. As most of them are direct flights, an European who, last decade, had to spend twelve hours to arrive in the Northeast, after scales in Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo, today takes only six hours to fly from Lisbon to Natal.

Porto de Galinhas
Mounsieur Huvelin, his daughter Carine
and his grandson Yannis

Besides, for European standards, prices of hotels in Brazil are low. "An European who spends holidays in the Northeast spends less than he would in Mallorca, Spain, or Algarve, Portugal", says Marilia Cecilia Bodas, director of Lugares no Brasil, a real estate agency with office in Lisboa which works with Europeans. The value of the money is a strong argument when an European decides to buy a holiday house or start a life in Brazil, usually opening a small hotel or restaurant. "Over here, I can eat out everyday in a different restaurant, a luxury in France", says retired Xavier Huvelin, a 68 y.o, Frenchman who opened a hotel in Porto de Galinhas, Pernambuco.
For the same price of an apartment of 100 in Madrid, a retired Spaniard can purchase two penthouses with four suites overlooking the sea in João Pessoa, Paraíba. "Middle class Europeans who live squeezed in small places in the outskirts of their countries become enchanted with the possibility or purchasing large houses, near the beach, in a place where the sun shines all year long and fishermen sell lobsters for R$ 17 per kilo", says realtor Arnaldo Jorge Vidal, from Ceará, who over the past four years especialized in selling houses to Portuguese clients in Fortaleza.

The combination of good quality of living at a low cost motivated the Portuguese Nelson Baldaia, 64, and his wife Otilia, 61, to buy a beach house four years ago in the Praia de Águas Belas, in the city of Cascavel, 60 km away from Fortaleza.

retired in Brazil
Nelson and Otilia

They were retired already, and in the beginning spent half year in Brazil and hald in Portugal. "Now that we obtained the permanent visa, we decided to stay here permanently", says Nelson. Little by little, the friends who used to come for visits or who listened to their stories about the warm clean waters and the white sand decided to buy houses in the same place. "Today many friends are our neighbours. Even our doctor bought a home near ours", Nelson says.
The Portuguese who purchase houses in Ceará have an average income of 1,500 euros per month. For the Baldaias, this was about R$ 8,000 per month (3,000 euros), which is a good money in Ceará. Over the past three years, the number of Portuguese living in the State grew by 60%.

According to Embratur, 5.4% of tourists who visit Brazil stay at their own places. Other 24% stay with friends or relatives. The Norwegian couple Thomas Lindgard, 31, and Cathirne Rystad, 28, and their daughter Marianne, 15 months, came for the first time to Brazil and stayed with a friend of Thomas' in the Pipa beach, Rio Grande do Norte. "The beautiness of the region and the cordiality of the people were a good surprise for us. We intend to return to Brazil other times", says Cathrine.

The purchase of real estate by foreigners has at least three benefitial effects for the Northeast. The first one is the creation of new jobs. It is estimated that each new foreigner who settles in theregion creates, at least, one new job. The second effect is the increment of tourism; with a house in Brazil, the frequency of visits increase.
The third benefit is the change in the profile of tourists. "Foreigners who come to stay in a resort of buy beach houses have a good purchasing power and spend more", says Nelson Freire, Secretary of Tourism of Rio Grande do Norte. This new group of tourists include families, just-married and elderly, groups much different from those who come to Brazil in search of sexual tourism.

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