Brazil is prepared to put on the most spectacular Olympiad of all time. For the first time, South America will host the Olympic and Paralympic Games, an event of historical importance for the continent. Rio de Janeiro will be the gateway to a nation that offers many tourist attractions in terms of natural beauty, sports, gastronomy and culture. The Games will be spread across the capital, an open city where athletes and tourists will have the privilege of enjoying the competitions against the backdrop of spectacular scenery like no other host city.
Locals, who are used to open-air festivals and sports, will give a warm welcome to the tourists visiting Rio during the Games, estimated at between 300,000 and 500,000. These visitors will also have the opportunity to get to know the other five cities that will host the football matches, as well as a variety of destinations around the country. The Olympic facilities, such as tracks, arenas, gymnastics centres, aquatic parks and grounds, have already been handed over to the Rio 2016 organisers. All of the infrastructure necessary to welcome domestic and international tourists will be provided, together with the more than 25,000 journalists from all over the world who will be in the city during the Games.
At the end of the series of mega-events held in Brazil, (starting with the Pan-American Cup in 2007, followed by Rio+20, World Youth Day, the Confederations Cup, the World Cup and the Olympic Games) Brazil will have benefitted from ample exposure to the outside world and the building of both basic and touristic infrastructure. In total, the eyes of 5 billion spectators from all over the world will be on Brazil during Rio 2016. The Brazilian government is aware of this potential and is working its hardest to attract further investment in the sector. It will also be a unique opportunity to showcase Brazilian destinations with less global visibility. The infrastructure built for the Games will be a vital legacy for improving the reception given to tourists in Brazil, particularly in terms of airports, urban mobility, tourism signage and qualified personnel.
Since Brazil was announced as the host for the Olympics and Paralympics, Embratur (Brazilian Tourism Institute) has been developing strategies to promote the country as a host for major sporting events and attract ever more international visitors. With Rio 2016, we aim to increase the flow of national tourists and break the records for the number of international visitors to the country. Through fairs, campaigns and promotional activities abroad, the Institute has dedicated itself to showcasing a range of destinations and products, so that visitors take the opportunity to extend their stay and get to know other Brazilian cities.
Our expectations for the biggest sporting event on the planet in Brazil are very optimistic, not least because the Anuário Estatístico do Turismo (Statistical Yearbook of Tourism) shows that in 2015, Brazil maintained the same flow of foreign tourists as the previous year, when the World Cup took place in Brazil and a record number of foreign visitors was registered. Over 6.3 million people arrived in the country in 2015, giving a volume just 1.9% down on 2014. The numbers demonstrate the vigour and sustainability of the sector, which has an impact on 53 segments and favours the recovery of national economic growth.
I am also enthusiastic about the temporary policy exempting Australian, Canadian, American and Japanese visitors from the need for tourist visas during the Olympic period. Embratur introduced this initiative in 2015, with its "Brazil is open for you" promotional campaign, which aimed to encourage citizens of those countries to travel to the country. The screens of Times Square, the most-visited tourist destination in the world, are also promoting Brand Brazil in July. As was the case during the World Cup, efforts are being made to increase the flow of South American tourists.
During Rio 2016, the world's attention will be on the participants in the world's largest sporting event. We are working to welcome athletes, technical teams and tourists safely, peacefully and joyfully. The world needs this Olympic break, during which unity and levity reign, as a sort of emotional respite. The changes that are taking place at a global level, the economic and political problems that so many countries, including ours, are experiencing, cannot get in our way. The three factors of entry visa exemption, the devaluation of the Real and improved connectivity make it easy for foreigners to visit this August. Embratur is counting on this situation to attract tourists and increase the profitability of tourism in Brazil. The Games will be the crowning event in a virtuous series that places Brazil at new heights of world tourism.