These may be the dog days of summer in South Florida, but for Brazilian visitors, July is prime time.
Its winter vacation season south of the equator, and despite a slowing economy and a weakening currency in South Americas largest country, Brazilians appetite for South Florida visits hasnt waned.
Everything from glamorous events to woo Brazilians to buy luxury condos to special shopping tours and cultural activities have been timed for July, the height of the Brazilian social season in Miami.
Even Miami International Airport is unveiling Sem Fronteiras/Without Borders, its new Brazilian art exhibit, on Wednesday, and Vogue Brasil plans to bring out a special 66-page Miami issue at the end of the month.
The Brazilians are coming in herds, said Paulo Bacchi, co-owner of Artefacto, a high-end Brazilian furniture maker with two South Florida stores. He postponed both a designer showcase at his Coral Gables store and the champagne launch party for his new location in Aventura until this month to take full advantage of the Brazilian influx.
July is officially vacation-in-Miami month, he joked.
Just listen. Theres Brazilian Portuguese in the air especially if youre at a location that has anything to do with shopping.
And its not just the Brazilians who are speaking it. Brasil, Brasil! Oí, tudo bem? (Hi, everything good?), yelled Johnny Deen, a salesman at Elegance Perfumes, as he spotted a group of Brazilian teenagers entering Sawgrass Mills mall.
With a broad sweep of his arms he beckoned them inside the small shop. I know just enough Portuguese to sell, said Deen. Soon a dozen teenagers, all clad in matching T-shirts from their tour group, were wafting perfume strips under each others noses, sniffing spritzes of perfume and buying. There was good reason the sales people were so welcoming. Brazilians now account for about 40 percent of the stores business.
At the nearby Rita Marianni store, leopard-print luggage and sky-high purple heels for $39 were attracting a crowd of young Brazilian shoppers.
Still, if you just looked at the latest economic indicators you might expect that tourism from Brazil would be running out of steam. Turmoil in Europe as well as slower Chinese demand for Brazils soybean and iron ore exports are taking a toll. Brazils currency, the real, has fallen from 1.57 reais to $1 last July to around 2 reais this season eroding Brazilians purchasing power. And most estimates peg economic growth at a mere 2 to 2.5 percent this year.
That news hasnt arrived in the pockets of the Brazilians who are visiting here, said Claudia Menezes, vice president of bus tour operator Pegasus Transportation, which ferries Brazilian shoppers to Sawgrass Mills, Bayside and the Aventura and Dolphin malls. In both South Florida and Orlando we are still going with loads and loads of buses and extra buses to carry everything they buy.
Pegasus organized the bus tour that brought more than 100 teenagers from Belem, Brazil, to Sawgrass Mills for a five-hour shopping spree.
William Talbert III, president and chief executive of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he expected 2012 to be another record year for Brazilian travelers. Last year, more than 634,000 Brazilians visited and spent $1.345 billion, making Brazil Miami-Dades top international market.