Give Us Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Brazilians

Americans looking for a cheap vacation when I was growing up used to head south to Mexico, where we could live like kings for a few bucks a day.   Now, Miami has become Brazil’s Mexico… Kinda.   The NY Times has the story, which has some great quotes and anecdotes.

“MIAMI — Even in a city that has embraced so many waves of Latinos that it is jokingly referred to as the only South American capital in North America, no one group has been as courted and pampered as the Brazilians.

Flush with cash from a booming economy and enamored of luxury, Brazilians are visiting South Florida in droves and spending millions of dollars on vacation condominiums, clothes, jewelry, furniture, cars and art, all of which are much less expensive here than in Brazil.

As a thank-you, Floridians are creating innovative ways to make the Brazilians happy and to encourage them to keep dipping into their wallets. Real estate agents, for example, have cobbled together one-stop-shopping firms that offer interior decorating and concierge services as well as legal advice and visa help. Some agents have even opened offices in Brazil to simplify the process.”

Ok, so Miami is rolling out the WELCOME mats for Brazilians.  This took me by surprise though:

“We come to Miami to invest because in my country housing is very expensive,” said Claudio Coppola Di Todaro, a hedge fund investor from São Paulo who recently bought a condominium at Trump Towers in Sunny Isles Beach and another at the Trump SoHo in Manhattan (Brazilians also love New York). “We like Miami to go on vacation a few times a year. Many Brazilians do this now.”

Aiyahhh!  Trump Towers in Miami and NYC are bargains compared to what’s available in Sao Paulo?  Ouch.

A realtor provides the money quote, emphasis mine:

“Brazilians in many ways have been the saving grace here,” said Edgardo Defortuna, president of Fortune International Realty, which has offices in Brazil and Miami. “Price is not much of an issue for them.”

Has there ever been a time where someone ever said “price is not much of an issue” where it didn’t end badly?

The next quote basically explains that for the Brazilians, it’s kinda like home, only cheaper, and safer:

Brazilians here slip into the Latin American lifestyle — late dinners and familiar fashions, food and music. And the relative safety of the United States is a bonus. Rio de Janeiro’s murder rate, while declining, is nearly triple of that in Miami.

Eager to shop and spend time with friends and family, extended networks of Brazilians often buy condominiums in the same building, like the W in South Beach.

“In Miami, they can come here and wear expensive watches and drive their convertible cars, and nobody will cut your arm for a piece of jewelry, like happens at home,” said Alexandre Piquet, a Brazilian lawyer for Piquet Realty, which was founded by his brother, Cristiano, a well-known race-car driver. “Here we don’t have to worry about kids crossing the street and getting kidnapped, some of the issues we still face down there. It’s the reality.”

Of course other cities want to compete with Miami!  In this case, Orlando:

Now, Orlando is trying to lure Brazilians, who prefer the city’s outlet malls over its theme parks. Pegasus Transportation operates regular shopping tours, bringing thousands of Brazilians to the malls. The Tommy Hilfiger clothing outlet and H.H. Gregg electronic store open early just for them.

“They are buying everything imaginable,” said Claudia Menezes, vice president of Pegasus. “Laptops, cameras, brand clothes — lots of Prada and Louis Vuitton.”

Finally, we get to the post title – the U.S.’s desire to import more Brazilian tourists eager to spend money here:

“This zest for spreading cash is the main reason why the visa battle is beginning to resonate on Capitol Hill.

There are only four American Consular offices in Brazil, a country almost the size of the United States. To get a visa, many Brazilian must travel long distances to be interviewed at a consular office. Despite the onerous process, there were 820,000 visa applications this year, with an average wait of 50 days — too long, tourism officials say.

Lobbyists are pressuring Congress and the State Department to change the process. Barring that, they are pushing for more consular offices and a pilot program that would screen visa applicants through video conferences. Seven bills are pending in Congress on the visa issue.

In the meantime, tourism officials say, Europe siphons away a large number of Brazilians because traveling there is so much easier. Western Europe receives 52 percent of all Brazilians who travel abroad and the United States 29 percent.

“You could probably double the number of Brazilians in the United States” if visas were not required, said Patricia Rojas, a vice president at the U.S. Travel Association. “We are at a complete disadvantage.””

Amazing.  This whole article almost seemed like a satire – but again, it’s not from The Onion.

Full article:  Miami Courts Free-Spending Brazilians


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