Even with Oil, Tourists still Seek out Brazil's Northeast for New Year's Eve

Oil spill is worrying the travel sector

Ana Luiza Tieghi
São Paulo

Despite the presence of oil along Brazil's northeastern coast, the region continues to be Brazilians' dream destination for New Year's Eve.

According to a survey done on the 17th by CVC, six of the ten most sought after destinations by the agency's clients for the New Year period are in the Northeast, including first place, Maceió (AL).

Pajuçara beach (AL) (Foto: Renato Luiz Ferreira/Folhapress) - Folhapress

Kayak search engine also points out the preference for the region. Five of the top 10 most searched destinations are in the Northeast.

The city of Ipojuca (PE), where is Porto de Galinhas and the third most sought after destination by CVC customers, was hit by the oil spill.

There were two occurrences. The first, smaller, happened six weeks ago. On Friday (18), a new and larger batch of oil arrived in the city. The oil has not reached the natural pools of Porto de Galinhas but is accumulating in neighboring beaches. Cleaning began on Friday and continued until Sunday (20).

"It was a war operation," said Artur Maroja, vice president of ABIH (Brazilian Hotel Industry Association) of Pernambuco and owner of two lodgings in the city. Civil defense, residents, merchants, and even tourists mobilized.

Maroja said that the city's beaches are clean and that anyone who wants to visit the site need not worry.

"Today, Porto de Galinhas has an occupancy of 85% in hotels, and tourists are enjoying the beach almost normally," he said.

The ninth most sought after destinations in CVC, Maragogi (AL)—famous for its natural pools—was also affected by the oil. There are still traces of the material there.

Carneiros Beach (PE) - which according to the operator recorded a 400% increase in demand for tourists for the New Year compared to last year - was one of those affected.

There, the oil arrived in early September and was removed. Late last week, however, new spots appeared. The beach has been clean, but visitors can still find small debris under the sand.

The tourism industry is concerned about a wave of booking cancellations and a drop in demand for new trips in the summer.

According to Marina Figueiredo, vice president of Braztoa, an association that brings together travel operators, if the problem continues in the coming weeks, sales to the Northeast are likely to decline, even in cities not affected by the spill.

Most high season sales are booked in October and November. Marina says there may be some change in destinations sought by travelers. "People will Hardly  stop traveling."

In the luxury segment, the main destinations in the region - southern Bahia, Jericoacoara, and Fernando de Noronha - have been little or nothing affected by the spill, at least so far.

Translated by Kiratiana Freelon

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