Vinicius Lummertz, São Paulo State Tourism Secretary : bold and enterprising vision for tourism

por The Winners
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He was the creator and president of the State Company of PPPs and Concessions of Santa Catarina, technical director of Sebrae Nacional in the FHC Government and is the author of the book “Brazil: World Tourism Power”. A graduate of the American University of Paris in Political Science, he attended senior management at Harvard University’s Kennedy School and Lausanne IMD (Switzerland) and completed A-Level in Politics, Government and Economics at D’Overbroeck’s College in Oxford. Mr. Lummertz was Tourism Minister of President Michel Temer management, President of Embratur from 2015 to 2018 and National Secretary of Tourism Policy of the Ministry of Tourism from September 2012 to May 2015.

He chaired the National Tourism Council, of which he was also Executive Secretary. He was secretary of Planning, Budget and Management of Santa Catarina with the governor Luís Henrique da Silveira, also holding the position of secretary of International Articulation.

Secretário de Turismo Vinicius Lummertez

The Winners – What is being a good public manager these days?

Vinicius Lummertz – It is to really understand the need to do more with less. Do not get stuck in the scenarios of 15 or 20 years ago, as we live a new reality. We have to use new solutions to issues that have already been addressed but not resolved in the past and therefore reach our present.

Understand the value of government actions to foster, develop and effectively improve the lives of citizens, regardless of whether you are from the Secretariat of Tourism or Health: We all need to have the same engagement and the same search for effective solutions.

TW – How does the state want to leverage tourism throughout the state? What are the main actions in this regard?

VL – São Paulo tourism is of enormous volume. It is the Brazilian state that receives the most people from all over the world and also the one that travels the most – the largest emitter.

However, São Paulo, as a state, has never had a clear position when it comes to tourist destination in a broad way. That is, we receive millions of visitors each year, largely motivated by business tourism – fairs, congresses, shopping, technical visits, etc. But tourism, as in most states, was still viewed as secondary, not as the center of government strategies. The change proposed by Governor João Doria, who started a public career in tourism as president of Paulistur, later Embratur, is primarily to build this position. Create a brand for São Paulo and seek the increase of internal and external flow.

Structuring the tourism product is also a goal. These are the goals that we will pursue. Our management efforts are directed towards creating favorable conditions for the decentralized development of tourism activity, increasing the visibility of our attractions and enhancing the State’s assets.

TW – What was your initial assessment of the structure of the secretariat and ongoing projects? What are the main changes and projects already implemented by your management?

VL – We had a secretariat that needed to be restructured – and it is being reinforced in the areas of knowledge generation, market relations and communication. The initial strategic milestone was the launch in February of our São Paulo for everyone program. From it derive a series of programs and actions. One of the highlights was the reduction of the ICMS tax rate on aviation kerosene from 25% to 12%.

This initiative allowed the creation of 700 new weekly frequencies distributed in various cities of the state – that is, São Paulo for everyone. Tourists and residents will have better infrastructure and quality air transportation, which will help to warm up the local economy. By 2020, 21 regional airports are expected to be privatized which, with air services in operation, will become more attractive, enhancing the virtuous circle of development undertaken by the Government initiative.

In addition, following a successful model in countries such as Portugal, we are implementing a Stopover program with airlines. Again, Sao Paulo for everyone. The service allows passengers with connections at major São Paulo airports to stay in Sao Paulo for a few days at no additional cost to the ticket. In September, we launched the Tourism Credit Program, in partnership with Desenvolve SP, to enable companies and municipalities to access credit lines.

There is more than $ 1 billion for financing, in the public and private sectors. The offer comes to complement the municipalities budget. That is, São Paulo for everyone. We also launched this year our advertising campaign, highlighting the numerous beauties of the state. It is the crystallization of a series of changes that tourism in the state of São Paulo goes through in an unprecedented way.

TW – What are the expectations of growth and results until the end of Doria management for tourism in the state?

VL – As the Brazilian economy goes side by side, tourism is growing throughout the country, but mainly in the state of São Paulo. To give an idea, in the second quarter of the year, the Brazilian economy grew 0.4%. In tourism alone, growth was 7.7% in the first half, according to the IBGE.

Now in September, this same index of tourist activities in the country grew by 4.8% compared to August. The percentage is four times higher than recorded by the entire service sector in the same period (1.2%). The highlight was the state of São Paulo, which had a high of 10.5%. In domestic tourism, São Paulo is the main destination among the 26 states, and the gateway to one third of foreign travelers – 2.2 million in 2018. The sector is responsible for 10% of São Paulo GDP.

There is room to grow more and the state government is doing its part. After almost a year of management, our diagnosis is that we will have much more results if we make integrated policies rather than individual ones, which we still observe today.

TW – What is your opinion about tourism in the country and the comparison with your plans for the State of São Paulo? Can the state be an example for the rest of the country?

VL – It can undoubtedly be an example, but without in any way detracting from the qualities of national tourist destinations. It is important to consider that in the case of international tourism, Brazil is geographically distant from the major emitters. Thus a trip to Brazil almost always does without the creation of a script with more than one destination. Amazon, Bahia, Pantanal, Foz do Iguaçu, Rio de Janeiro and my beautiful Santa Catarina combine very well with São Paulo. A complete script is enriched with the ‘Brazilianness’ that is in all our states.

What we need to understand, and this is our effort, are the peculiarities of the product of each of the states, of each of the national tourist regions. And let this essence be worked out precisely in order to offer an authentic product, a memorable experience. Because it is the destination of at least 65% of international flights that pass or have to Brazil, Sao Paulo has a phenomenal strategic advantage, is a fact. Therefore, we have to work on capturing the permanence of this traveler.

By deciding to create a Tourism Intelligence and Economy Center, which had been included in the Government Plan of then-candidate João Doria, we are signaling that we should delve deeper into the data, research, analysis that will help us extract the best and most assertive public policies for the sector.

You can no longer swim on the surface. Tourism in São Paulo starts to dive in deep waters to understand and, if possible, anticipate trends.

TW – You were Minister of Tourism from April 2018 to December 2019, President of Embratur from June 2015 to April 2018 and National Secretary of Tourism Policies from September 2012 to May 2015. How is all this experience? Does it impact your work at the Secretariat?

VL – In the best way possible, starting with forming a team that brings, not entirely, part of that experience. A sum of talent. We are able to value the team found in São Paulo, with qualified professionals, experienced and knowledgeable about the state – which has 645 municipalities – and adding reinforcements in points where we need people with expertise and experience. We do not have a team of heroes, saviors of the country, who win a game, but of people who are committed to our proposal and will therefore help us win the championship.

My experience, prior to the Secretariat of Tourism Policies, Embratur and Ministry, is team building, search for innovation and delivery of results. I was Secretary of Planning of the State of Santa Catarina, knowing, therefore, of the decisions that have an impact on management results; In the same way I articulated the international presence of my state, expanding the focus to attract investments; Not least, I created the State Company of PPPs and Concessions, which, keeping the proportions, brings similarities with what we are doing now in Sao Paulo.

At the federal level I was technical director of Sebrae and tourism is made up of small and medium enterprises in more than 90%. We have the big hotel groups, the airlines, some OTAs and consolidated agency groups, but these are counted on the fingers. We also have to look at the independent hotels, inns, the agencies with up to six or seven employees. This mass is responsible for much of tourism jobs and results in São Paulo and Brazil.

This is the experience I have to join them all.

TW – Is there any international partnership designed to promote tourism in the state of São Paulo or specific regions? Which are?

VL – We are now launching a bold international tourism campaign in November to attract more visitors to the state. A commercial video made by us will be aired on all CNN channels worldwide, reaching 350 million viewers. And, as Governor João Doria made a point of highlighting, the most important is that the entire campaign was funded by the private sector, which proves the credibility of the Government of São Paulo with the private sector.

At a cost of $ 4 million, the “SP for Everyone” campaign was negotiated with the airlines after reducing aviation fuel taxes. It will air on CNN channels worldwide, covering 180 countries. We also have other actions with Gol, Azul and Latam, besides the foreign Air Canada, to promote the stopover service in São Paulo, as I mentioned earlier. In addition, Spanish Air Europa is running the Spanish version of our video on its aircraft.

We are also in contact with Virgin Airlines interlocutors to help promote the new flight from London Heathrow Airport to Sao Paulo scheduled for March 2020. In addition, we have ongoing conversations with Chile’s low-cost Jet Smart, and FlyBondi, from Argentina, for new operations in our state.

TW – How to foster new tourism projects amid a certain shortage of public and even private investments?

VL – Using intelligence. Plenty often creates flab. We have to keep our muscles ready for the answer to the challenge we have set ourselves: managing the best tourism in the richest state of the country. A governor like João Doria when choosing a secretariat that looks more like a ministry does not expect nothing less than that. And we as tourism representatives don’t either.

And in this first year we have already shown that with work, transparency and respect for the private sector, it is possible to find alternatives for investments, even in a scenario of scarcity. The reduction of ICMS on the QAV was available to past governments; has not been tried. We did and Sao Paulo won over 700 weekly frequencies distributed throughout the state. If money is scarce, if resources are more limited, we have to be much more careful with investments, no matter if a thousand, a million or a billion.

But once we have found the ways, we need to have the courage to follow it, in the certainty that it will bring good results and that we are doing our best. This will also help us in the boom times that are sure to come.

TW – How to foster new tourism projects amid a certain shortage of public and even private investments?

VL – Using intelligence. Plenty often creates flab. We have to keep our muscles ready for the answer to the challenge we have set ourselves: managing the best tourism in the richest state of the country. A governor like João Doria when choosing a secretariat that looks more like a ministry does not expect nothing less than that.

And we as tourism representatives don’t either. And in this first year we have already shown that with work, transparency and respect for the private sector, it is possible to find alternatives for investments, even in a scenario of scarcity. The reduction of ICMS on the QAV was available to past governments; has not been tried.

We did and Sao Paulo won over 700 weekly frequencies distributed throughout the state. If money is scarce, if resources are more limited, we have to be much more careful with investments, no matter if a thousand, a million or a billion.

But once we have found the ways, we need to have the courage to follow it, in the certainty that it will bring good results and that we are doing our best. This will also help us in the boom times that are sure to come.

TW – Alternatives and flexibility regarding environmental licensing or the legalization of casinos could be an alternative to potentialize new projects?

VL – I am in favor of legalizing resort casinos because the country needs investment. Brazil has the largest tourism potential to be developed in the world. But the country needs infrastructure to receive more tourists and be more attractive. And for that it is necessary to invest. In this sense, opening the country to resort casinos is a necessary and mature evolution that we are retarding. We need to make up for lost time.

Releasing casinos is a way of leveraging tourism to create an entertainment industry. So I see the casino issue as a means, not an end. The casino is a creative area that serves as an incubator of artistic manifestations, as happened in Brazil when there were casinos. ‘Casino da Urca’ is the prime example. All the art that was created there was the embryo of TV Tupi and after Rede Globo. The casino brings an economical spin on arts and shows that is fantastic and employs a lot of people in this industry. Another issue is that there is a very large economic turnover where there is a casino.

Just look at the experiences of Miami, Las Vegas and Macau. If we take the example of Macao, there was built not only a casino, but an icon of architecture, which includes event center, theme park, sculptures, gardens, theaters, etc. Along with the casino opened about 20 more hotels that work as satellites. All this investment, which exceeds R$ 7 billion, has forever changed the reality of Macao.

And if Brazil releases the casinos we can also receive investments like this. As for environmental licensing, we understand as fundamental the understanding of what is being proposed, before a summary negative. And that cases should be treated within a broader view and, again, with the citizen as a parameter. Licenses for small marinas, for example, along our huge coastline, cannot be assessed as the establishment of a bulk port.

And this decision can have a positive impact on many communities, who will not receive large vessels, but visitors with enough purchasing power to make that kind of trip and, consequently, heat that local economy in a non-massive but qualified way.

TW – The tourism trade still complains about the difficulties of the sector, mainly due to the lack of legal certainty. How to reverse this picture?

VL – I think the first decision is to do what we are doing since day zero here at the office: sit together, understand the difficulties on both sides and work hard to find a solution that may not be ideal, but it is possible enough that decisions do not go beyond legal limits and good governance.

Often envisaged legal certainty is limited to large investments and / or partnerships that require a large government effort. This business owners understand and is not from today. It does not mean, on the other hand, that all that is demanded must be accepted.

TW – The State Secretariat of Tourism has recently launched a booklet of suggestions for parliamentary amendments. How was this work born and what is the purpose?

VL – Today we have 70 ‘estâncias’ (Tourist Resorts), 140 ‘MITs’ (Municipalities of Tourist Interest) and more than 400 municipalities inserted in the tourist regions of the Brazilian Tourism Map, which shows great potential in the segment. These are cities with high capacity to receive visitors and, especially, whose economy is bustling with this activity.

To structure these destinations, the São Paulo State Department of Tourism is preparing a technical and administrative structure that is appropriate to the requirements of the segment today. We already have the Department of Support for the Development of Tourist Municipalities (DADETUR), which through projects transfers direct resources for the execution of works and programs related to tourism development in cities.

A partnership with the Legislative Assembly of the State of São Paulo is of paramount importance, which through the allocation of parliamentary amendments for tourism can support the structuring of tourism destinations and products and the generation of employment, income and foreign exchange. The investment opportunities in the municipalities are wide and diverse and can be made in structuring works, events and promotion of destinations – preferably those present in the Brazilian Tourism Map, through parliamentary amendments.

This booklet, developed by the São Paulo State Secretariat of Tourism, aims to assist parliamentarians in formulating these amendments. With straightforward, easy and accessible language, it presents our actions and guidance on the possibility of allocating amendments.

TW – What is missing to become a major world tourist power?

VL – We are not missing much. The capital of São Paulo is already the main destination for business tourism in the country. Stimulating tourism can help achieve long-awaited programs, such as cleaning the Pinheiros River and revitalizing downtown, a project in which we are also concentrating our efforts alongside City Hall.

As minister, had already been responsible for a contribution of $ 30 million to the so-called Historic Triangle. Not only is Sao Paulo a reality as a tourist destination, but it has enormous untapped potential, enough to generate what economists call “positive externalities”: through good deeds in our sector, generating development in other economic segments as well even other regions.

TW – What most attracts tourists to Sao Paulo? In a sentence, what symbolizes tourism? In Brazil and São Paulo.

VL – Because we have a kaleidoscope of attractions in the state, simplifying is not so easy. ‘Tourism’ in Sao Paulo is symbolized by an effort to meet the needs of visitors, whether they are buyers of the popular trade on ’25 de Março’ (street with popular stores), visitors from the so-called technical tourism, as cutting-edge agribusiness researchers who are welcomed in the Piracicaba region, or even those who love adventure and eco-tourism, who from now on will enjoy a virtually untouched region in our Atlantic Forest in the Ribeira Valley which, through tourism, will also be the ‘Valley of the Future’.

What symbolizes tourism in Brazil is the strength of a welcoming nation that unfolds, even in the face of its difficulties, so that tourists have the best experience possible on their trip. 

TW – Talking about Barretos, what are the examples of the municipality regarding the management of tourism for the state of SP and for the country?

VL – The Secretariat’s Center for Intelligence and Tourism Economics, this year, conducted an unprecedented survey to assess the economic impact of the Barretos Boiadeiro Pawn Festival. The study showed that the event moved about $ 900 million with tourism in this edition.

The survey heard 1,126 people inside the party and found that the average consumption per visitor in accommodation was $ 1,055, followed by transportation to the city ($ 395), shopping ($ 299), food ($ 273), leisure (R $ 180), and transportation within the city (R $ 142). This totaled an average expense of $ 2,345 per person in five days.

Examples like this show the importance of the union between public and private for events that add value to tourism and the state economy. Tourism no longer has the meaning it had in the past. It has a new logic and economic weight that should make tourism come to the center of the political and economic agenda. And the Barretos region, as well as nearby Olympia, with its huge structure of water parks, are a good example of this.

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