There are several reasons why South Florida continues to be such a magnet for Brazilians:
• More flights Last summer, American Airlines had six daily flights from Brazil to Miami. This summer, the number is up to eight and it added service from a seventh Brazilian city, Manaus, on June 14. It also plans to split its Miami-Salvador-Recife route on Nov. 15 into two with service from each city five times a week and add a second daily flight between Miami and Rio de Janeiro in December.
Overall Brazilian traffic is up significantly, said Art Torno, Americans vice president for Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America. This has been a great summer so far.
Low-cost Brazilian carrier GOL also began weekly charter flights to Miami on July 8, and hopes to begin offering five flights a week from Sao Paulo, via Caracas, pending U.S. Department of Transportation approval.
Brazils TAM, which recently merged with Chiles LAN Airlines, also has plans to start using larger aircraft on its Sao Paulo-Miami and Manaus-Miami routes and has applied to increase the frequency of its flights between Brazil and Florida.
• The price is right Despite the weakening currency, the real is still relatively strong. Brazil also imposes high taxes on imports, making many of the brands Brazilians covet such as Apple, Louis Vuitton and Prada very expensive at home.
The prices are much better here maybe half what they would be in Brazil, said Noenia Ecker, 15, who was among the teens on the shopping tour. Her game plan was to stock up on accessories and clothes, especially on favorite brands like Gap.
Brazilians spent more than $5,000 per visit in 2011 almost twice as much as travelers from France and the United Kingdom, according to the U.S. Travel Association.
• Real estate bargains In recent years as defaults, oversupply and the economic crisis depressed the price of South Florida real estate, properties in Rio Janeiro and Sao Paulo were climbing to the loftiest levels ever. Now Brazilian prices have plateaued but theyre not falling. Brazilian clients are saying they can get twice as much for their money here, said Craig Studnicky, a principal at Related ISG, which markets and sells luxury condominiums. Its still the bargain of bargains despite the dollar strengthening against the real.
However, the enthusiasm of eight months ago when Brazilians could find luxury properties at $250 per square foot is somewhat tempered, said Philip Spiegelman, Studnickys partner. Those prices are gone now, but the Brazilians still represent a healthy, dynamic market.
Brazilians have swagger, he said. And even if only 1 percent of Brazilians can now afford luxury waterfront, Spiegelman said, in a country with a population of more than 205 million that 1 percent is a lot of people.
• Easing of the visa logjam It used to take more than 100 days for Brazilians to schedule an appointment at a U.S. consulate for an interview to get a travel visa. But the United States recently took steps to speed up visa processing and the wait for an appointment is down to one to two days. U.S. Travel says there has been a 58 percent increase in visa processing since last year.