Published 05/02/2024 05:00
In his second term as head of the Federation of Commerce of Goods, Services and Tourism of the State of Rio de Janeiro (Fecomércio RJ), Antônio Florêncio de Queiroz Junior also holds the presidency of the Regional Council of Sesc RJ and Senac RJ. With this year’s municipal elections, he believes that “whoever is elected in October, whether in government or in opposition to the governor, or the President of the Republic, the important thing is that there is dialogue and commitment to an administration that positively impacts the quality of lives of our citizens.”
How do you view the impact of the public security situation in Rio de Janeiro on retail and tourism?
We have to see this issue from two perspectives that complement each other: on the one hand, what is happening at the current moment, supported by statistical bases and scientific data. But there is a second perspective that is also fundamental, just as important: the perception of security. The feeling of security goes through the presence of police, through functioning commerce, a busy city, lit streets, pruned trees, one thing leads to another. Residents need to go about their lives freely, move around safely, the State must guarantee that the right to come and go is fully exercised. If it works for those who live here, it will certainly work for those who visit us. This applies both to the main tourist areas, tourist attractions, and to the logistics of tourist circulation, such as travel to RIOgaleão.
This year we have municipal elections. What is the impact on the production sector and the economy?
Mayors and councilors, being the agents closest to citizens, have a fundamental role in formulating public policies and making decisions that directly affect the local economy, including commerce and tourism. Powers have their limits, but municipal management has great influence on the business environment in the city. For example, decisions related to bureaucracy for opening and operating businesses, local taxation such as IPTU and ISS, urban cleaning and lighting, as well as investments in infrastructure in general significantly impact commerce and services. Management that favors a more agile and less bureaucratic business environment tends to encourage entrepreneurship, which is vital for the trade of goods, services and tourism, for the generation of jobs and income. Isolated actions are not as efficient as more coordinated measures, policies that move in the same direction. Therefore, I consider that the ideal is to have an alignment of purposes between the three federative levels. Each of these entities – Municipality, State and Union – is independent of each other. And it’s good that it’s like that. What the production sector sees as positive is the alignment and cooperation between these levels, a harmony that occurs in the genuine exchange of ideas, expectations, experiences, and common projects. Dialogue between politicians and business is essential for economic growth. Therefore, whoever is elected in October, whether in government or in opposition to the governor, or the President of the Republic, the important thing is that there is dialogue and commitment to an administration that positively impacts the quality of life of our citizens.
What are the prospects for tourism and commerce in Rio de Janeiro in 2024?
We are very hopeful about 2024 and part of this enthusiasm has to do with a measure that will finally be put into practice in Brazil, which is the adoption of the Tax Free program, a banner of Fecomércio RJ. Apparently, Rio de Janeiro will be the pioneer in the country. According to a survey carried out by the Fecomércio Institute, in 2023, the projection is that this will encourage foreign tourists to spend R$2 billion more than they already spend in the country currently. And what is tax free? It is a tax refund system (in this case, ICMS) that is paid when purchasing goods by foreign tourists. For Rio’s commerce, it will be very positive news. A stimulus that is already well established, for example, in Europe and even in neighboring countries, such as Argentina and Uruguay. It represents an old claim that was approved, in September, by the council that brings together the Finance Secretaries of all states in the country. The expectation is that it will be implemented in the first half of the year, starting in Rio de Janeiro.
What about business tourism and events? How can Rio take advantage of this segment efficiently, also thinking about the positive impact on trade?
This is a very important segment to support the commerce and services sector due to some factors. One of them is that this type of tourism helps us get around the issue of seasonality, which, even in a city or state like Rio de Janeiro, also ends up having an impact. In other words, a relevant calendar of events, supported by an excellent hotel network, gives strength to predictability which, from a commercial point of view, is essential in terms of planning, investments, and even temporary hiring. Another aspect is the diversity of the public that the corporate and events provide. A large technology fair attracts a much different audience than a large music festival. But consumption is latent in both segments. Not necessarily the same products. In other words, a comprehensive events calendar helps to diversify the flow of visitors and consumption in our city. I believe that, year after year, this has become more intense. And we are increasingly positioning Rio beyond a tourism destination focused on leisure and nature. This market is hot and Rio has all the conditions to keep this flame burning.
The federal government ended up postponing the visa requirement for tourists coming from the United States, Canada and Australia. I imagine that the sector is more relieved, but how can the visa requirement actually impact tourism?
We all know the enormous importance that tourism has for Rio de Janeiro. So, yes, we welcome the postponement of this policy, but we consider it very important that this postponement becomes a permanent policy. You don’t have to have this visa. It is necessary to balance two fair points: on the one hand, diplomacy, the principle of reciprocity, but on the other also the logic of generating income and jobs. We cannot make it difficult for foreign visitors to come. Bureaucracy must be at the limit of security, compliance with laws, but not represent an obstacle to initiatives that seek to transform tourism into wealth for the country and for people.
In January, the NRF Retail Big Show was held in the United States. What lessons can Brazilian retail take from this event?
It is the most relevant fair in the world for the retail sector, and a unique opportunity to capture market trends. We have been doing this exercise for a few years and we have just provided the retailer here in Rio with experiences and knowledge about trends for the development of the business, its activity and the best ways to achieve it. In this year’s edition, it became clear, for example, the role that artificial intelligence will play in streamlining processes and facilitating sales. The idea, therefore, is to use this background, this inspiration obtained at events like the NRF to enable our market to adapt to this in the fastest and most effective way possible.