“Brazil can’t be the country of gay tourism,” said President Jair Bolsonaro during a meeting with journalists last month. “We have families here.”

Well, Mr. President, that ship is sailed.

According to Gaydar Nation, an LGBTQ-related website created by consultancy firm QSoft, Brazil is one of the top 10 spots for LGBTQ tourism. The country hosts a plethora of events marketed directly at the community, including several New Year and Carnival parties.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Brazil has no less than 180 pride parades every year—with São Paulo&#8217;s event alone attracting roughly 3 million tourists and generating over BRL 190 million in revenue for the city every June. Brazil&#8217;s worldwide image as a gay-friendly destination has pushed LGBTQ tourism up by 11 percent in 2017—as opposed to a 3.5-percent overall growth for the industry. </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Every year, there is potentially BRL 420 billion in &#8220;pink money&#8221;—the term used to refer to the purchasing power of the LGBTQ community— circulating around the country, according to Out Leadership, an international association of companies which develops initiatives for the LGBTQ population.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Same-sex couples are disproportionately DINKs— &#8220;double income, no kids&#8221;—and LGBTQ tourists spend an average of three times more per capita than their heterosexual counterparts. They travel an average of four times per year and spend twice as long on vacation than is standard. According to data from the U.S. Department of State, 87 percent of this population use travel agencies to plan and execute their trips.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Entrepreneur Fernando Sandes is one of those targeting the segment, having founded LGBTQ entertainment startup Viajay. “When you build a business, you have to research if the market is there. In the case of gay tourism in Brazil, it is.” Traditional brands have taken notice—and are looking for partners to directly cater to this audience. Viajay, for example, has </span><a href="https://www.panrotas.com.br/noticia-turismo/agenciasdeviagens/2017/03/empresas-lancam-intercambio-exclusivo-para-publico-lgbt_145348.html"><span style="font-weight: 400;">teamed up</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> with Global Study—an agency providing study-abroad experiences—to launch a program focused on providing safe housing for LGBTQ students. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Meanwhile, clothes store Renner and cosmetics giants Natura and O Boticário are examples of market leaders who have independently launched gay-friendly campaigns.</span></p> <h2>An icon in the making</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Brazil has also produced one of the newest global LGBTQ icons: Pabllo Vittar, recently dubbed the &#8220;world’s most famous drag queen.&#8221; At 24 years old, Vittar has enjoyed international success. In 2019 alone, he closed deals with gay dating app Grindr and NYC Pride Fest—and will </span><a href="https://veja.abril.com.br/entretenimento/os-caches-de-anitta-pabllo-e-naiara-azevedo-para-a-virada-cultural-2019/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">play</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> at São Paulo’s Virada Cultural festival this weekend for a fee of BRL 100,000. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In response to Mr. Bolsonaro’s comments on gay tourism, the entertainer told the BBC, “Brazil has been a gay paradise since before I was born.” He went on to say that tourists should still come to Brazil.</span></p> <div id="attachment_17590" style="width: 1010px" class="wp-caption alignnone"><img aria-describedby="caption-attachment-17590" class="size-full wp-image-17590" src="https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/shutterstock_1029702625.jpg" alt="pabllo vittar lgbtq tourism" width="1000" height="667" srcset="https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/shutterstock_1029702625.jpg 1000w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/shutterstock_1029702625-300x200.jpg 300w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/shutterstock_1029702625-768x512.jpg 768w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/shutterstock_1029702625-610x407.jpg 610w" sizes="(max-width: 1000px) 100vw, 1000px" /><p id="caption-attachment-17590" class="wp-caption-text">Singer Pabllo Vittar</p></div> <h2>Is Brazil safe for LGBTQ people?</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Safety is a large priority for gay travelers. A 2016 study conducted by Virgin Holidays showed that two-thirds of LGBTQ adults in Great Britain refuse to visit countries perceived to be unwelcoming of the community. Brazil could easily be identified in this group. Every year, the country posts one of the highest numbers of </span><a href="https://brazilian.report/society/2018/05/24/advances-brazil-dangerous-trans-lgbtq/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">discrimination-related deaths</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in the world—420 last year, most of them being perpetrated within the victims&#8217; homes, according to NGO Grupo Gay da Bahia.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Like many countries, social realities vary by region. In terms of states, São Paulo has roughly four times the population of Alagoas, but only 40 percent more deaths. Social realities also vary by identity. Trans people and gay men accounted for 84 percent of LGBTQ murders. Curiously, those who identify as both non-white and LGBTQ make up 41.5 percent of homophobia-related killings. Meanwhile, the non-white population accounts for 71.5 percent of Brazil&#8217;s overall homicides.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Inside cities, violence levels also vary by neighborhood. A 2017 report by </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Globo</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> showed that the majority of reported homophobic incidents (not including deaths) in São Paulo occur in the center of the city. Counterintuitively, this may be due to the fact that this area is more gay-friendly. The center is frequented by the LGBTQ population and is home to famous nightlife spot Rua Augusta, as well as Rua Frei Caneca—the city’s “gayest street.” For an incident to be classified as homophobic, the perpetrator is required to have perceived the victim as LGBTQ. As this population may be more open about their sexuality in gay-friendly areas, they could be more at risk.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In the same vein, Brazil is cited as being more dangerous than countries where gay lifestyles are criminalized. Again, this may not reflect a higher level of intolerance but rather an increased risk. Regardless, it remains a fact that there is a higher rate of homophobic violence here than in the 13 countries which still enforce the death penalty for homosexuality.</span></p> <div id="attachment_17591" style="width: 1010px" class="wp-caption alignnone"><img aria-describedby="caption-attachment-17591" class="size-full wp-image-17591" src="https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/shutterstock_1379619863.jpg" alt="" width="1000" height="667" srcset="https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/shutterstock_1379619863.jpg 1000w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/shutterstock_1379619863-300x200.jpg 300w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/shutterstock_1379619863-768x512.jpg 768w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/shutterstock_1379619863-610x407.jpg 610w" sizes="(max-width: 1000px) 100vw, 1000px" /><p id="caption-attachment-17591" class="wp-caption-text">São Paulo&#8217;s Pride Parade, a key event for LGBTQ tourism in Brazil</p></div> <h2>Where will we go from here?</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The sitting administration has departed from decades of advances in LGBTQ rights and protections. President Bolsonaro removed homophobia concerns from the docket of the Human Rights Ministry during his first week in office.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Brazil has registered 141 deaths of LGBTQ people this year, according to Grupo Gay da Bahia. The real numbers, however, are likely to be higher, as the NGO bases its study on what is reported by the press. Despite the data showing that Brazil is one of the most dangerous places for a gay or transgender person to live, levels have also stabilized from last year, suggesting that despite President Bolsonaro&#8217;s homophobic rhetoric, his electoral win has not translated into a spike in violence rates (a least not immediately).</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Human Rights Minister Damares Alves is another political figure adopting homophobic rhetoric. She recently criticized entertainment for promoting gay relationships. Discussing Disney&#8217;s &#8220;Frozen&#8221; in a video that went viral this month, Ms. Alves pondered whether “[Elsa] is going to wake up Sleeping Beauty with a gay kiss.” She went on to say that little girls should dream of finding Prince Charming, not princesses. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">While the president and minister openly discourage LGBTQ rights, the Tourism Ministry and their state-owned firms continue to have specific campaigns for gay tourists. São Paulo’s 23rd pride parade, happening this June, will serve as a metric for gauging which image of Brazil wins out.

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SocietyMay 17, 2019

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BY Juliana Costa

Juliana is a growth strategist and contributor to The Brazilian Report