The collapse of Brazil's flag carrier Varig last year caused a significant fall in the number of foreign tourists visiting Brazil in 2006 revealed a top official from the Ministry of Tourism in Rio do Janeiro.
Marcio Favilla said that in 2006 a total of 6.3 million tourists arrived in Brazil, half a million less than in 2005, and therefore income from international tourism did not reach the target of five billion US dollars but rather 4.3 billion. However he admitted that the fall could have been worse had it not been for the charter flights which jumped 20.7%, transporting 423.514 visitors. On the other hand Brazilian traveling overseas in 2006 spent 5.8 billion US dollars which represents a 22.12% increase compared to 2005 and is the highest since 1998. Brazil's Ministry of Tourism expects a recovery in the number of foreign visitors since other Brazilian airlines have rapidly begun taking over the international flights forcibly abandoned by Varig's bankruptcy. Mr. Favilla said that income from international tourism during January 2007 totaled 484 million US dollars which is 20.5% higher than in 2006. Nevertheless not all tourism operators feel so optimistic about a quick recovery in the number of foreign tourists: crime in Brazil's main cities has become a major problem with ample coverage in the international media. For a week last year the country's main industrial hub, Sao Paulo came to a virtual standstill when street gangs, commanded from the country's security jails, attacked police stations, patrol cars and public transport killing scores of security personnel, which was then followed by a rampage on the penitentiary system. The strong Brazilian currency is also tempting more and more Brazilians to fly overseas thus helping to create a significant deficit in the country's tourism income equation.