Secularism : Religious Tourism Infuses Over 80 Billion Dollars into Brazil’s Economy Annually

26th May 2024

A recent report on religious tourism in Brazil, presented by Sebrae Santa Catarina, sheds light on the nation’s more than 300 religious tourism sites, collectively contributing billions of dollars in annual travel revenue.
While many of these sites are closely tied to Christianity and religions of African origin, the offerings extend to all faiths, accommodating Buddhists, Spiritists and other sects in the South América’s most populous nation.

Government data from the Ministry of Tourism reveals that in 2022 alone, this sector infused approximately R$ 120 billion into the country’s economy.

Dedicating attention to this promising sector, the Festuris Gramado International Tourism Fair has been a stalwart supporter, establishing the Cultural and Religious Space back in 2006 with the aim of nurturing this market niche.

Scheduled this year for November 8 to 11 at Serra Park in Gramado, Rio Grande do Sul, the fair underscores Brazil’s reputation as one of the world’s most devout countries.

Eduardo Zorzanello, director of Festuris Gramado, highlights, “We’re prioritizing this segment for Festuris because religious tourism is a formidable asset and one of the fastest-growing market niches . Pilgrims exploring Brazil are met with breathtaking landscapes and a rich cultural tapestry”

The influence of Religious Tourism isn’t confined to domestic borders. In recent years, the influx of foreign pilgrims driven by religious tourism has been palpable. In 2019, as an illustration, Brazil welcomed a staggering 5 million foreign visitors who sought out the nation’s religious attractions and offerings, solidifying the global appeal of these sites.

Christ the Redeemer , for the past 90 years , has stood as an emblem of faith. Yet, its significance extends beyond religious beliefs; the sanctuary also serves as a catalyst for business, generating employment and fostering various activities in its vicinity.

A recently completed study conducted by the Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV) reveals that the monument contributes a substantial sum of R$ 10 billion to the economy, while simultaneously creating and sustaining a minimum of 51,393 direct and indirect jobs across 68 sectors of the economy.

These encompass diverse businesses that tourists actively contribute to, such as the hospitality industry, restaurants, transportation services, and more. Furthermore, the study concludes that tourists who include a visit to the statue extend their stay in the Marvelous City by up to an additional 12 days

In its assessment, the FGV considered several factors, drawing on official statistics centered around the monument. Among these factors is the unique aspect that no other place worldwide offers visitors access to a monument identical to the Redeemer, making the view an unparalleled experience for 99.3% of its visitors. Elegantly perched atop Corcovado, the statue is strategically positioned, rendering it visible from nearly every part of the city. Notably, it also stands as the world’s sole open-air Catholic sanctuary and serves as a venue for various events and brand exhibitions. A striking illustration of this was seen in January when the city selected this site to launch its COVID-19 vaccination campaign. The mystical dimension has not been overlooked, as the brand’s value is amplified by the Christ’s representation of hope for the people of Brazil.

In specific scenarios, properties that afford views of Christ the Redeemer can command a higher market value compared to apartments facing streets in Rio’s Southern Zone. The example cited by Father Omar Raposo, emphasizing the statue’s significance not solely in terms of faith but also its economic impact, is corroborated by real estate market consultant Rubem Vasconcellos of Patrimóvel. In particular instances, apartments with a sightline to the Christ can yield a value up to 10% higher than another unit within the same building.

Nonetheless, this principle isn’t universally applicable to all properties. These apartments must offer a clear view of the monument, and the buildings should ideally face main thoroughfares with substantial traffic flow. An example of this can be observed on Jardim Botânico Street, as Rubem pointed out.

Another concrete illustration of how the statue, Christ the Redeemer contributes to the local economy is exemplified by the Corcovado Train, which marked its 137th anniversary on Saturday, the 9th. The company’s president, Sávio Neves, recounted that when competing for the first concession to operate the service in 2014 (previously, the company paid a type of rent to the government), they committed to investing R$ 300 million in modernizing their operations. Of this total, R$ 250 million has already been invested in the acquisition of three new trains, with repayments spread over the next 14 years, and these new trains began operating in 2019. This overhaul of their fleet was also noted in FGV’s study.

Brazil, often celebrated for its vibrant culture and diverse traditions, offers a tapestry of experiences to travelers, and religious tourism plays a significant role in this mosaic. Amidst the rich religious landscape, African traditional religions have emerged as a captivating thread that enriches Brazil’s cultural fabric. The fusion of Orisa festivals and carnivals across the nation creates a mesmerizing tapestry of spiritual celebrations and vibrant festivities that draw both locals and tourists alike.

Brazil’s history is deeply intertwined with the African diaspora, with a substantial population of Afro-Brazilians tracing their roots to the West African region. Among the most prominent religious practices is the worship of Orisa, revered deities from the Yoruba culture. These deities, believed to influence various aspects of life, have found a profound resonance in Brazil, where they’re celebrated through elaborate festivals.

Orisa festivals, pulsating with rhythm and color, offer an immersive experience into the vibrant world of African-Brazilian spirituality. These festivals take on various forms, each unique to the deity being honored. From the elaborate celebrations of Yemanjá, goddess of the sea, to the lively rhythm of Ogum, god of iron and war, these events captivate participants and onlookers alike. Tourists have the opportunity to witness intricate rituals, traditional dance performances, and witness the passionate devotion that defines these celebrations.

Carnival, another emblem of Brazil’s cultural identity, melds seamlessly with these religious festivals. The blend of traditional African spiritual practices with the exuberance of Carnival creates a dynamic and unforgettable experience. Carnival celebrations in cities like Salvador and Rio de Janeiro showcase the diversity of Brazil’s cultural heritage, with parades featuring themes drawn from Afro-Brazilian mythology and the worship of Orisa.

Beyond the spiritual significance, these festivals contribute significantly to Brazil’s economy. Tourists flock to these events, infusing local economies with revenue from accommodations, food, transportation, and artisanal products. Moreover, the global appeal of these festivals highlights Brazil’s commitment to embracing its diverse heritage and sharing it with the world.

In a world that’s becoming increasingly interconnected, religious tourism centered around African traditional religion, Orisa festivals, and Carnival not only preserves cultural legacies but also fosters greater understanding and appreciation among visitors. As travelers immerse themselves in the vibrant traditions of Brazil, they also gain insight into the intricate web of faith, culture, and history that shapes this enchanting nation

Brazil’s annual Carnival festival is more than just a dazzling spectacle of color, music, and dance; it’s a powerful economic driver that injects vibrancy into the country’s economy. This iconic event draws over 50 million tourists from around the world to partake in the festivities, creating a ripple effect of economic benefits that extend far beyond the parades and samba rhythms. The 2023 Carnival injects 16 Billion dollars to the economy in 7 days

Carnival, often referred to as “the greatest show on Earth,” is a time when the entire nation comes alive in celebration. From the bustling streets of Rio de Janeiro to the vibrant avenues of Salvador, cities across Brazil transform into epicenters of joy and revelry. Amidst the flamboyant costumes and exuberant dance performances, the economic impact of Carnival becomes evident.

Tourism is the backbone of this economic phenomenon. Every year, Brazil witnesses a significant influx of visitors who flock to the country to experience the grandeur of Carnival firsthand. These visitors not only spend on accommodations, transportation, and entertainment but also drive demand for local goods and services. Hotels, restaurants, street vendors, and souvenir shops experience a surge in business as tourists immerse themselves in the Carnival spirit.

The impact goes beyond the immediate financial gains. Carnival-related tourism creates job opportunities, employing a wide range of individuals, from performers to hospitality staff, security personnel, and event organizers. This seasonal boost in employment plays a pivotal role in supporting local economies and livelihoods.

Furthermore, the cultural exchange that Carnival fosters is invaluable. As tourists from diverse backgrounds come together to celebrate, they gain a deeper understanding of Brazilian culture, music, and traditions. This cultural exchange builds bridges and promotes international goodwill.

In recent years, there has been a concerted effort to leverage Carnival’s economic potential to support local communities and promote sustainable practices. Initiatives like promoting eco-friendly parade floats and incorporating local artisans into the festivities help channel the economic benefits back into the communities that host the celebrations.

Brazil’s annual Carnival festival showcases the seamless convergence of culture, art, and economics. Beyond its mesmerizing visual spectacle, it stands as a testament to the power of cultural events to stimulate economic growth, foster cultural exchange, and enhance the overall quality of life for both residents and visitors. As the samba rhythms reverberate through the streets, so do the economic benefits that continue to shape Brazil’s cultural and financial landscape.

Beyond its sun-soaked beaches and iconic landmarks, Brazil’s diverse spiritual landscape has emerged as a potent catalyst for economic growth. Religious tourism, particularly visits to sanctuaries and shrines of Orisa religions, has proven to be a formidable contributor to the nation’s economy. The vibrant celebrations of Orisa pantheon festivals have become not only expressions of faith but also dynamic engines propelling millions of dollars into local communities.

Brazil’s affinity for religious practices is deeply ingrained, reflecting the nation’s multicultural identity. The worship of Orisa, ancient deities central to Yoruba spiritual traditions, resonates profoundly within the Afro-Brazilian community. Festivals dedicated to these revered figures are characterized by vibrant processions, music, dance, and ritual offerings. These celebrations attract a multitude of devotees, both domestic and international, seeking a profound connection with spiritual heritage.

These religious pilgrimages aren’t just spiritual quests; they’re driving substantial economic impact. Devotees traveling from far and wide require accommodations, transportation, food, and various services. As they congregate to honor the pantheon of Orisa deities, they collectively inject significant funds into local economies, revitalizing communities and businesses in the process.

The annual Yemanjá Festival in Salvador, Bahia, stands as a prime example. The festival, honoring the goddess of the sea, transforms the city into a vibrant spectacle of music, dance, and devotion. The influx of pilgrims and tourists results in a surge in revenue for hotels, restaurants, street vendors, and artisanal markets. This economic injection extends far beyond the festival itself, stimulating long-term growth and development.

Similarly, the Orixás Festival in Rio de Janeiro attracts a global audience seeking to experience the rich tapestry of Brazilian spirituality. This festival, celebrating the diverse pantheon of Orisa deities, creates a unique platform for cultural exchange, fostering a deeper understanding of Brazil’s multicultural heritage.

As Brazil embraces its spiritual diversity, it’s also recognizing the potential for sustainable economic development through religious tourism. Collaborative efforts between local communities, authorities, and religious leaders are ensuring that the economic benefits are maximized while preserving the authenticity and sacredness of these festivals.

The convergence of faith, culture, and commerce is evident in Brazil’s Orisa pantheon festivals and religious visits to sanctuaries. As these celebrations continue to draw pilgrims from all corners of the globe, they reinforce Brazil’s position as not only a spiritual hub but also a thriving economic destination. The harmony between spirituality and economic growth is a testament to the nation’s ability to weave tradition and progress into a vibrant and prosperous tapestry.