Exclusive - Roberto de Lucena, Secretary of Tourism of SP, comments on projects and challenges for 2023

Roberto Alves de Lucena is a Brazilian writer and politician, affiliated with the Republicans. Born in Santa Isabel (municipality of São Paulo), he served three terms in São Paulo as a Federal Deputy.

During this period, he also held the position of Secretary of State for Tourism of São Paulo, between 2015 and 2016, in the Alckmin government.

In an exclusive interview for the iGaming Brazil portal, the new Secretary of Tourism and Travel of the State of São Paulo, explains about the regulation of betting in the country: “We need to have the law widely debated and approved, so that it can then be regulated. it will be possible to assign the roles”.

One of his hallmarks as Secretary of State was the creation of the Municipalities of Tourist Interest (MITs), in addition to having laid the foundations for the Ten Year Tourism Plan and for the Tourist Districts. In the Chamber of Deputies, he was Secretary of Transparency and chaired the Permanent Commission for Financial Inspection and Control.

See the full interview of the new Secretary of Tourism of SP

iGaming Brazil – Secretary, what will be the new challenges for the Secretary of Tourism and Travel of the State of São Paulo?

Roberto de Lucena – One of our great challenges is to increase connectivity between destinations, invest in the infrastructure of tourist municipalities with enormous potential and promote all our diversity. This month, the Government of São Paulo renewed the decree that reduces the ICMS rate from the current 13.3% to 12% on aviation fuel, with the aim of increasing air connectivity in the State. In phase 1 of the project, more than 700 new weekly flights were added.

With the renewal of the decree, there will be another 150 new weekly flights until Dec/2024, in addition to maintaining the program of scheduled stops (stopover), encouraging passengers to stay in connection through SP for at least one day at no extra cost. The Secretariat for Tourism and Travel is also working on creating the Rural Tourism Plan to be delivered within the first 100 days of the government. The objective is to structure and promote tourism in rural regions of the State, providing development and generating employment and income. I can also say that we have a large number of municipalities with a huge vocation for tourism in its most diverse segments, but there is still a lack of structure, promotion and connectivity.

The state of São Paulo, for example, has tourist attractions ranging from the coast to gastronomy; from theme parks to fairs and businesses, in short, a series of high quality attractions that attract visitors from SP, from other regions of the country and abroad. We are investing in nautical tourism, with the short delivery of 13 structures to enable navigation across dams and rivers. To give you an idea, there are 630 kilometers of coastline, around 4,200 km of navigable rivers and more than 50 reservoirs (lakes and dams). We have a lot of work, a committed team and a united sector.

iGaming Brazil – What will be the first measures of your term in the Secretariat? Will there be consensus with other states or will it act on its own in terms of funding, incentives, laws etc?

Roberto de Lucena – We took over the government with a structured secretariat. We had a smooth transition, with the technical team engaged, tourist municipalities mobilized and we quickly managed to align ourselves with the demands of the trade and incorporate our government objectives. We have an initial 100-day plan, in addition to medium and long-term goals. Tourism is a construction, a transverse and dynamic platform, which makes us reassess our needs at every moment and change the flight plan. We are sure that, with the partnership that is being strengthened with other government bodies, with the support of the population, academia and businessmen, we will achieve greater and better results for everyone. Starting with the resources of Dadetur (Department of Support for the Development of Tourist Municipalities), applied in the infrastructure of the municipalities, which should be a record in 2023.

iGaming Brazil – Tourism was one of the sectors hardest hit by the Coronavirus pandemic. How is this market reacting after this period?

Roberto de Lucena – The year 2022 was one of recovery. We are already in a moment of expansion, as shown by data from the Tourism Economy Intelligence Center (CIET), linked to Setur. The performance of tourism in São Paulo this year will be the best in the last five years. It is estimated that the sector’s economy will grow 7.8% in 2023. With this, the GDP of tourism in São Paulo will reach 299.4 billion, highlighting the State of São Paulo as the largest tourist center in the country. The advance is mainly due to domestic tourism.

45 million national tourists are expected, stimulated by three major activities: road tourism, hotels and the bar and restaurant sector, 1 million more tourists compared to 2019, the last year before the pandemic. International tourism will also fully recover from pandemic losses. In 2023, the State of São Paulo should receive 2.3 million foreign tourists, against 2.1 million in 2019. Thus, SP will receive 47.3 million visitors in 2023, surpassing the 46.1 million registered in 2019. Throughout this year, the airports will register 77 million passengers, the biggest movement since 2019, which registered 76 million passengers, considering domestic and international flights to Congonhas, Guarulhos and Viracopos airports.

The occupancy of accommodation facilities will reach 65.8% this year, 2.3 percentage points above 2019; and the bar and restaurant sector is expected to grow 8% compared to 2022. The growth of tourism brings important impacts to the state’s economy. Companies linked to the sector should post revenues of R$ 90.1 billion in 2023, stimulating the creation of 60,000 new jobs in activities related to the sector. A series of effective actions will be expanded and improved in this management. Among them, a large publicity program for the State, SP pra Todos; and the creation of new tourist districts, to further stimulate the sector. The initiatives are the result of the 20-30 strategic plan, created to guide the Secretariat’s decision-making until 2030.

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iGaming Brazil – What is your opinion about the legalization of casinos in Brazil?

Roberto de Lucena – I have followed all the movement on the subject. The debates that followed the basic text of bill 442/91, approved by the Chamber of Deputies, were widely debated. All of society, through elected deputies, has had the opportunity to put issues on the agenda and express their arguments. Based on dozens of contributions, we are building a model associated with resorts, insurance and tourism, with the potential to generate development, jobs and income.

I believe that this whole long process of understanding has been important to mature a theme that requires, in fact, a very careful and judicious evaluation. Only then will we reach the consensus we seek.

iGaming Brazil – How much could the installations of resorts integrated with casinos contribute to Tourism in SP?

Roberto de Lucena – By associating it with other tourist equipment, based on a safe model, casinos can contribute to the diversification of tourism in the state, generating revenue, jobs and development. São Paulo has the advantage of having a wide structured hotel offer. The state’s infrastructure is the most developed in the entire country.

iGaming Brazil – Which cities (regions) could directly benefit from the regulation of Casino Resorts?

Roberto de Lucena – Municipalities that already have resorts installed would have an advantage, since they already have the infrastructure. However, new investments may arise in destinations that are still poorly structured, precisely to generate the desired development.

iGaming Brazil – Do you believe that demand for Brazil as an international tourist destination will increase and even domestic tourism will benefit?

Roberto de Lucena – The potential exists, since there is a huge demand for casinos. But everything will depend on the model that Brazil adopts, the form of implementation and, above all, the regulations.

iGaming Brazil – With regard to the approval and regulation of gambling games managed by the private sector, do the executive, legislative and judiciary bodies of the State of São Paulo understand that what would be needed to regulate and legalize these games in the country?

Roberto de Lucena – We need to have the law widely debated and approved, so that it can then be regulated. Only after this procedure will it be possible to assign the roles.