Severe flooding has affected over 90% of municipalities in Rio Grande do Sul, one of Brazil’s premier tourist destinations. The state’s primary airport, Salgado Filho Airport (POA) in Porto Alegre, has been forced to close indefinitely, underscoring the severity of the situation.

ForwardKeys’ analysis of the data paints a stark picture of the impact on air travel. Prior to the floods, POA had tens of thousands of flights scheduled in the coming months, with a capacity of millions of seats. Neighboring airports have scrambled to absorb the lost capacity but have only managed to take on a fraction of POA’s weekly flights.

The repercussions for Gaúcho tourism are significant. In the first four months of the year, Rio Grande do Sul enjoyed connections with multiple countries across Latin America, North America and Europe. Hundreds of weekly flights and over a million seats were scheduled, highlighting the state’s popularity among domestic and international travelers.

Compare that period to June, and the contrast is clear. Weekly flights have plummeted by over 80% compared to the previous year. Seat capacity has also dropped dramatically, down by more than three-quarters year-on-year. The few remaining routes are all domestic, operated by a handful of airlines.

In response to the crisis, carriers have moved swiftly to reallocate seats to regional airports in the southern region. Canoas, Florianópolis, Caxias do Sul, Passo Fundo and Jaguaruna have all seen upticks in capacity as airlines strive to maintain connectivity. However, these gains only make up a small proportion of the hundreds of thousands of seats lost at POA.

Traveler behavior is also shifting. In the immediate aftermath of the floods, searches for flights to Porto Alegre dropped by over half. However, interest in alternative airports like Caxias do Sul, Florianópolis, Jaguaruna, Pelotas and Passo Fundo rose markedly, with some seeing search increases of up to 50%.

Encouragingly, most travelers are choosing to reschedule their trips rather than cancel outright. This is thanks in no small part to a concerted campaign by the state government and local businesses urging passengers to postpone rather than scrap their plans. This flexibility and resilience prompt cautious optimism for Rio Grande do Sul’s beleaguered tourism sector.

Looking beyond the state, the closure of POA has far-reaching implications for tourism across Brazil. The airport is a vital gateway for international visitors, with thousands of overseas travelers passing through each week. Major source markets like the U.S.A., Uruguay, Chile, Argentina and Germany will all feel the impact.

Rio Grande do Sul is also a significant source of domestic tourism, with Gaúchos taking hundreds of thousands of trips within Brazil each year. Popular destinations like São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Paraná and Bahia are likely to experience a substantial decrease in visitors from the state, affecting local economies and businesses.

As the flood waters recede and the damage is assessed, the true cost of this disaster for Brazilian tourism will become clear. While the challenges are immense, the early signs of adaptability and resilience from airlines, airports and travelers offer hope that the sector can weather this storm and emerge stronger on the other side.

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2024-06-12T11:33:53+02:0012/06/2024|All, DMO|
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