REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Despite the tedious and costly visa process Brazilians must endure to enter the United States, more and more Brazilians are flocking to the U.S. each year for leisure travel as discretionary income increases among the middle class.
Miami, for example, experienced a 14.2% year-over-year increase to 634,155 Brazilian visitors in 2011, according to data from the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. That number is expected to increase, meaning hoteliers in the market are developing marketing strategies that will keep Brazilian guests coming back to their properties.
The Mandarin Oriental Miami is finding success in two of its packages targeted specifically to Brazilian guests.
“Brazilians come to Miami mainly for shopping because … it’s in our culture. We love shopping, and lately the dollar works very well for us. Miami is like a shopping paradise right now, and the high-end brands are more affordable here than in Brazil,” said Karin Weber, director of travel industry sales for the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, who also is Brazilian.
To cater to the traveler who is looking to buy consumer goods in the U.S., the Mandarin Oriental created an exclusive shopping tourist package. “Basically, our guests enjoy an exclusive shopping excursion with a driver and explore Miami,” Weber said.
The hotel’s “Fantastic Latin” package creates overall more efficient travel process for guests. “Since the majority of flights to Miami from Brazil are early morning or late evening, the package includes early morning check-in or late night check-out,” Weber said.
Most Brazilian guests rent cars to facilitate their shopping trips, so the package includes valet parking and complimentary breakfast, which is considered a staple in Brazilian culture, she said.
“A complimentary continental breakfast will go a long way,” said Paul Sistare, president and CEO of Atlantica Hotels International, which is based in Sao Paulo.
Another cultural aspect hoteliers should be aware of is how fastidious Brazilians are about cleanliness with most of them taking two showers per day, Sistare said. Additionally, “a Brazilian would never take a bath, and they find Jacuzzis disgusting,” he said.
Rooms that are at the top level of cleanliness are crucial to guest satisfaction, he said.
Staff interactions with Brazilian guests
Most Brazilians are bilingual or trilingual with English being the most spoken foreign language, according to Sistare.
“However, spoken English is limited mostly to pleasantries and therefore, they tend to travel in groups with interpreters. A hotel that has a person on staff to greet the group or individual in their language is immensely well received,” Sistare said.
The Trump International Beach Resort in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, ensures their employees have a working knowledge of Portuguese to cater to their Brazilian guests. Management purchased language-learning software for employees to learn Portuguese, said Wendy Kallergis, president and CEO of the Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association, which advocates for local hotels.
Brazilians tend to be very social individuals with a strong sense of loyalty, he said. Sistare advises employing a staff member, especially someone who speaks fluent Brazilian Portuguese, who can build a rapport with the Brazilian guests and serve as a point person; this will likely increase the guests’ level of loyalty to the hotel.
By nature, Brazilians tend to be non-confrontational, Sistare said. “If they are not treated well, they do not complain,” he said. “They just do not come back and tell their friends, as well.”
Marketing to Brazilian guests
To maintain a presence in Brazil, several of the hotels in Miami, including the Trump International Beach Resort and the Shore Club Hotel, send sales managers to Brazil several times a year to establish relationships with Brazilian travel agencies, Kallergis said.
Many hotels in the market also have translated their websites into Portuguese, she said.
As for advertising, many hotels are getting the word out about their packages in high-end luxury publications popular in Brazil, such as “Wish Report,” Kallergis said.
“It’s a very interesting dynamic of what’s happening in our luxury market and boutique hotels. I think that’s what (Brazilian travelers) like,” she said.
While Miami seems to be a favorite destination among the Brazilian traveler due to the close proximity via airplane, Washington D.C., and New York are two other U.S. markets Brazilians have on their radar, Sistare said.
These cities are ideal for the Brazilian traveler as “the ability to simply walk around in the middle of the night and explore is a Brazilian’s dream come true,” he said.
Highlighting the warm weather and local attractions is another way to target Brazilian travelers.
“Remember that in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are reversed. Now we are in the middle of winter and, although mild, Brazilians are heading in mass to Orlando primarily for the parks,” Sistare said.
“In South America, we have nothing like a big mouse walking around or rides based on the most popular blockbuster movies,” he added. “Throw in a splashing killer whale and you have a captive audience.”