By Jon Howe
Interest in travelling to Brazil from the UK is rising fast, with less than a year to go until the big kick off in the 2014 World Cup.
Hotel prices in the country's biggest cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are among the highest in the world, but this hasn't prevented a dramatic rise in hotel searches online, at 32 per cent and 36 per cent respectively, as the clamour to visit the famous football nation begins.
Across the country, hotel prices are rising generally, encouraged by a strong economy and growing interest from tourists across the globe. Average room rates, according to the latest Hotels.com figures, increased last year by eight per cent to £151 compared to 2011.
These increases are reflected in the big cities where Sao Paulo saw a 6 per cent growth to £135 per night, whilst Rio de Janeiro saw an average rate rise of 13 per cent to £177 per night.
Brits are increasingly looking beyond the traditional tourist destinations, buoyed by the fascinating journey Michael Palin brought alive in his BBC documentary series 'Brazil' last year, which chronicled his travels across the country.
Also, football is naturally playing a big part in sparking interest in the most successful World Cup nation. Hotels.com reports that all of the country's World Cup host cities have seen double or triple digit rises in hotel searches. Salvador has seen the most searches with an increase of 126 per cent. This is closely followed by Fortaleza with a 108 per cent increase and Curitiba with an 82 per cent rise in searches.
Official figures from the Brazilian Ministry of Tourism confirm that these searches are translating into real visitor numbers. From Britain, 155,548 made the journey in 2012, a 4 per cent increase on 2011. Overall, the country enjoyed a 4.5 per cent increase in visitors from the previous year, with 5.4 million tourists in 2012.
Alison Couper of Hotels.com commented that it was great to see the anticipation and interest building in Brazil, ahead of a huge World Cup year in 2014. Ms Couper added: "While Michael Palin has been an inspiration for many, the country's booming economy has been a big draw for business travellers. As the country gears up for the World Cup, we're expecting demand to continue to grow. However, with a countrywide programme of hotel building in progress, increased supply should mean that prices stay steady, giving football fans a reason to celebrate even if their team doesn't win the cup."