A new program announced by the Brazilian Tourism Board (Embratur) has sparked criticism that the country’s tourism promotion platform is being directed at Brazilians, and not foreign tourists.

Embratur is developing a reality show project—entitled “O Rei do Rolê“—in which foreign social media users will compete to win the chance to travel around Brazil for 30 days, meeting President Jair Bolsonaro in the process.

The tourism board has let slip

few details about <em>O Rei do Rolê</em> (translated loosely as &#8220;The King of the Party&#8221;), but the fact that the title of the show will not even have an English or Spanish translation highlights the insularity of Embratur&#8217;s agenda.</p> <p>Those interested in taking part will be required to submit 1-minute videos explaining why they should be chosen, and Embratur has suggested it will consider the number of social media followers of contestants when selecting a winner.</p> <p>This comes weeks after the Federal Police released data showing the number of tourists visiting Brazil fell 5.4 percent in the first half of the year, compared with the same period in 2018. Between January and June, approximately 2.77 million foreigners visited Brazil, almost 200,000 less than came to the country in the first six months of last year. The decrease has largely been put down to the financial crisis in Argentina, as the neighboring country is the main source of tourism in Brazil.</p> <div class="flourish-embed" data-src="visualisation/667948"></div><script src="https://public.flourish.studio/resources/embed.js"></script> <p>In March, President Jair Bolsonaro had announced that he was scrapping tourist visa requirements for citizens from the U.S, Canada, Japan and Australia. The measure only came into effect in June, however, so any early effects of the move have not yet shown up in the Federal Police&#8217;s data.</p> <h2>&#8220;Visit and Love Us&#8221;</h2> <p><em>O Rei do Rolê</em> is not the only misstep taken by Embratur since current head Gilson Machado Neto took over the board in May. In fact, the appointment of Mr. Machado Neto created controversy in itself. Previously known as the accordion player of <em>forró</em> band Brucelose (named after a disease on which Mr. Machado Neto wrote his university thesis), he received a BRL 3,500 fine for disobeying sustainable tourism rules when he constructed illegal tents and chalets on a beach in the northeastern state of Alagoas.</p> <p>In July, Embratur launched its new brand identity to widespread ridicule. The tourism board&#8217;s new slogan &#8220;<a href="https://brazilian.report/opinion/2019/08/27/brazil-visit-love-us-embratur-country-branding/">Brazil, Visit and Love Us</a>,&#8221; carried with it a sexual innuendo that suggests the motto was not verified by a fluent English speaker. Furthermore, the font used for the slogan belongs to a French designer who did not give authorization for his work to be used by Embratur.</p> <h2>Follow by example</h2> <p>Alongside <em>O Rei do Rolê</em>, Embratur has recently announced a series of new &#8220;tourism ambassadors,&#8221; who will reportedly provide &#8220;voluntary&#8221; services to the agency. Each appointment is worse than the last.</p> <p>The highest-profile signing for Embratur was ex-footballer Ronaldinho Gaúcho, who, in 2018, flirted with the idea of <a href="https://jacobinmag.com/2018/01/ronaldinho-jair-bolsonaro-brazil-lula">running for public office</a> for Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s political party. While recognized around the world and a potentially great choice to spread Brazil&#8217;s image abroad, Ronaldinho has had his passport seized due to an unpaid environmental fine.</p> <p>In 2015, Ronaldinho was convicted by a federal court in his home state of Rio Grande do Sul for building an illegal fishing platform in a preservation area in Porto Alegre.</p> <div class="flourish-embed" data-src="visualisation/667956"></div><script src="https://public.flourish.studio/resources/embed.js"></script> <p>After Ronaldinho, came Brazilian jiu-jitsu personality Renzo Gracie, who runs a chain of gyms across Brazil and the south-east of the U.S. Amid the war of words between President Jair Bolsonaro and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron over the Amazon fire crisis, Mr. Gracie published a video on social media calling Mr. Macron a pansy, and threatening to &#8220;choke him.&#8221;</p> <p>Elsewhere, Embratur has called up Brazilian country duo Bruno e Marrone, and daytime television presenter Ratinho, figures who are complete unknowns outside of Brazil.</p> <p><strong>The Brazilian Report</strong> contacted Embratur with a series of questions on the agency&#8217;s tourism programs and their appointments of ambassadors, but received no response.

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SocietySep 12, 2019

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BY Euan Marshall

Euan Marshall is a Scottish journalist living in São Paulo. He is co-author of A to Zico: An Alphabet of Brazilian Football.