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As Brazil's Currency Falls, Florida Struggles To Attract Tourists

Nov 7, 2015
Originally published on November 6, 2015 6:21 pm
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Florida's largest trading partner is Brazil. Until recently, Brazilian tourists were the biggest spenders in the U.S. Brazil's economy, though, is now in a deep recession. Its currency has tumbled 40 percent against the dollar in a year. The weak real is having a significant impact on the U.S.-Brazil travel and trade relationship. So we sent our correspondents, Greg Allen in Miami and Lourdes Garcia-Navarro in Brazil, to learn more. We begin in Sao Paulo.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: My story is a love story. Or rather, it's a story about thwarted love.

CAMILA NAGANO: My name is Camila Nagano. I'm 22 years old.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Nagano is a law student. She has long brown hair and she wears a heart-shaped locket around her neck. It's a gift from her boyfriend.

NAGANO: His name is Pietro. He studies in the same college as me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Except then he left - to Miami to work, which up until recently wouldn't have been a problem for Nagano. She, like many young Brazilians, used to go to the States a lot. Nagano grew up in Brazil's boom years when the economy was growing and Brazilians were traveling often.

NAGANO: I thought it was easy because I mean, Miami is one flight. So I could sleep in the plane and be there.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Then the economy here crashed. Two years ago, the Brazilian currency was 2-1 to the dollar. Now it's around 4-1, which means America got really expensive for Brazilians. Nagano wanted to surprise her boyfriend for Valentine's Day.

NAGANO: Yeah, a romantic getaway, and I had it all figured out (laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Until she saw the prices. She just couldn't afford it. And she's part of a wider trend. Magda Nassar is the president of Braztoa, the Brazilian Association of Tour Operators. Travel to the U.S. is down at least 20 percent this year, but it's not as bad as it might've been because, she says, the travel industry reacted quickly to the bad news.

MAGDA NASSAR: All the airlines, they started to put some very special promotions in the market, real promotions, like as low as $280 return.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Nassar says the aim is to keep people flying. So when you look at the cost of a ticket in the local currency...

NASSAR: What we had is a price in reais year that is lower than last year.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Still, for Nagano, those special airfares are not enough. She says fine - flights are cheaper, but what she earns in Brazilian reais doesn't go very far in U.S. dollars when she gets to the States.

NAGANO: Yeah, of course, this is terrible for my relationship.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: She had hoped to do her masters at a university in the U.S. next year to be closer to Pietro. But American tuition, she says, is unaffordable too.

NAGANO: I had a world of opportunities, but now I literally have no idea what's going to happen with my relationship, with my plans to study abroad.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So for now, she says, her boyfriend is the one getting on the plane to visit her. He's coming for New Year's, and she can't wait. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.