Rio's Irish carnival gets the green light
ONE of the world's most iconic landmarks is going green for St Patrick's Day.
But Ireland is still losing out on lucrative tourism from South America to our nearest neighbour, Scotland.
President Michael D Higgins said the greening of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro was a huge honour for the country and recognition of its Irish community.
The president and his wife Sabina were at the famous statue, which has become an emblem for all of Brazil since it was completed in the early 1930s, when Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, Orani Joao Tempesta made the announcement.
The statue overlooks Brazil's second largest city and is the latest in a long list of world landmarks, including Sydney Opera House and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, honouring Ireland's national day.
But when it comes to the 'brand recognition' stakes, Scotland is still streets ahead in Brazil.
Irish tour operator Siobhan Byrne Learat, of Adams and Butler, has been operating in Brazil for the past four years.
She says the country offers a very lucrative market that is not being tapped into properly.
"Brazil is our biggest market after the US and the average tourist travelling to Ireland from here will spend about €4,000," she said.
"But one of the biggest challenges is that Ireland is not widely known and we are still not as recognisable to Brazilians as Scotland which is our biggest competitor."
President Higgins was officially welcomed to Buenos Aires last night by Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner on the final stage of his two-week official visit to Latin America.