Suddenly, everything seems to be coming up Brazilian.
President Barack Obama will visit Brazil during his first South American trip in March and Brazil is Florida's top trading partner. But Brazilians are also snapping up beachfront luxury properties and downtown Miami condos, investing in everything from real estate to Burger King, and shopping voraciously.
It's as if a "swarm of grasshoppers" has descended on South Florida, one tour operator says.
"The trend now is everybody comes to shop, shop, shop," said Claudia Menezes, of Pegasus Transportation, which operates a fleet of buses for conventional tours as well as the shopping excursions that are so popular with Brazilians. "They're buying up everything from $10 creams at Victoria's Secret to Luis Vuitton and Prada."
Testimony to Brazilian consumerism: When Pegasus buses return Brazilians to the airport for their flights home, Menezes says, they have to put on extra trailers behind to haul the loot.
To keep the Brazilian visitors coming, American Airlines now offers 52 flights a week to Brazil from Miami International Airport.
"Brazil is breaking all sorts of records," said Rolando Aedo, senior vice president of marketing for the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. "It has been our rock-star market."
When all the numbers are tallied for 2010, Miami-Dade expects to have rolled out the welcome mat for more than 500,000 Brazilian visitors who spent more than $1 billion.
That would move Brazil into the top spot for international visitors, dethroning Canada, the perennial leader.
The Brazilian Consulate in Miami estimates that there are 250,000 to 300,000 Brazilians living in Florida, with the largest populations in Broward and Miami-Dade counties and Orlando.
What's spurring the Brazilian stampede?
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