Homophobic remarks by Brazil’s president may harm tourism industry

RIO DE JANEIRO, (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A comment from President Jair Bolsonaro that Brazil must not become a “gay tourism paradise” sparked concerns that LGBT+ people will avoid traveling to the country, fearing violence, campaigners and industry representatives said on Friday.

During a talk with reporters on Thursday, Bolsonaro said that Brazil should avoid being known as a gay destination because “we have families.” He said that tourists were more than welcome to “come here and have sex with a woman.”

“Bolsonaro’s homophobic remarks will have social and economic repercussions for Brazil,” said John Tanzella, president of the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association, an organisation with members in 75 countries.

“His hate speech not only deters LGBTQ+ travelers, but also their allies around the world,” he told Thomson Reuters Foundation in a written statement.

While there is no official data on how much revenue LGBT+ tourism generates in Brazil, major events like Sao Paulo’s annual LGBT+ Pride Parade, and Rio de Janeiro’s gay-friendly Carnival, fill hotels nearly to maximum capacity.

Worldwide, LGBT+ tourists spend around $218 billion a year, according to consulting group Out Now.

“It’s going to have an impact,” said Alfredo Lopes, Rio’s regional president of the Brazi-lian Association of Hotels.

Lopes added that LGBT+ tourists are very important to Brazil, and that hotels are ready to receive them.

Bolsonaro, a self-proclaimed “proud homophobe”, has made a number of disparaging comments about the LGBT+ community during his more than three decades in politics. Critics believe those comments instigate attacks against the LGBT+ community.

“He puts a target on the back of all LGBT+ people,” congressman David Miranda, a LGBT+ activist, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Bolsonaro’s administration declined to comment on the accusations.

This time, Miranda said, Bolsonaro also managed to brand Brazil as a friendly destination for sex tourists, an image the country has fought against in recent years.

The Brazilian LGBT Chamber of Com-merce and Tourism issued an open letter after Bolsonaro’s remarks.

“(Bolsonaro) suggests that the government will incentivize sex tourism in Brazilian territory, which is not acceptable from a moral or ethical standpoint,” said the letter.

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