Brazil – the best business trip you’ve never had
Depending on your outlook, mixing business with pleasure is either a no-no or the ultimate aim. In Brazil, however, things are viewed a little differently; pleasure is business and vice versa – it’s a national obsession.
From the all-conquering national football team to the rapturous Samba, Caipirinha – national cocktail, the national dish Feijoada – a joyful, slow-cooked concoction of beans with beef and pork; every facet of the Brazilian psyche oozes enjoyment.
In fact, the capital city of Brasilia is a perfect example. If the city had been planned anywhere else in the world it would have been charmless. Don’t forget, Brasilia is largely made up of office buildings and civic statements and was built with enough concrete to rival any former Eastern Bloc capital. However, designed by the nation’s visionary architect Oscar Niemeyer, Brasilia is a recital in curvilinear concrete – the symphonic embodiment of Brazil’s national exuberance.
If Brazil can turn the most pedestrian and lifeless building materials into a virtue, then just imagine what it can do for boosting the morale of your corporate troops.
If Brazil can turn boring old concrete into a virtue, then just imagine what it can do for the morale of your corporate troops.
Fancy forging meaningful and lasting relationships with your clients? Wine them and dine them in Rio, Sao Paulo, Salvador Bahia, Brasília, or Fortaleza. Whichever floats your boat, all of Brazil’s top five cities have plenty to offer.
Brazil has grown up on trade and tourism, and business travellers are well catered for – as you’d expect with a tradition that dates back 400 years. Hotels and resorts are well distributed along the country, ensuring great infrastructure almost anywhere – but nowhere more than Sao Paulo, the wealthiest city in Brazil.
A metropolis of 20 million people, it’s being tagged the New York of South America. Business tourism is big in Sao Paulo – especially in the realm of meetings and incentives. The accommodation on offer here is equal to anything you’d find in New York – the Tivoli Mofarrej is a perfect example. The city hosts more than 45,000 meetings and congress events every year – in fact, nearly three-quarters of all fairs and conferences held in Brazil are staged in this incredible city.
Of course, being the largest and arguably most exciting country in South America, it would be a shame to travel this far without sampling a little of what Brazil has to offer. And nothing is in short supply here – whether it’s magnificent beaches, lush rain forests, the mighty Amazon, or loosening your collar and tie for some unbridled hedonism during carnival, Brazil is the best business trip you’ve never been on.
There are also some hair-raising surprises in store with high-octane activities like off-roading and paragliding in coastal dunes, rafting and caving in the Amazon basin, or climbing in the Sierra Do Mar mountains near Sao Paulo. If participation sounds a little too involved, then there is always spectator sport.
Brazil is the home of the beautiful game, and the nation’s players are renowned for their trickery, and fast-flowing, attacking style of play. Companies like Sao Paolo-based Global Encounters can arrange tickets or private boxes at a Campeonato Brasileiro da Série A game – the top flight of Brazilian football. The top teams include Sao Paulo, Gremio, Santos, Flamengo, and Corinthians, or maybe even treat yourselves to the real deal and attend an unforgettable fixture for the Brazilian national team.
The largest city in South America and the financial heart of Brazil, metropolitan Sao Paulo has a population of over 18 million A multifarious city of Italian, native Indian, African, Portuguese, and Asian descent (there are believed to be 1.5 million people of Japanese origin living in SP), consequently Sao Paulo’s influences are best experienced in its superb restaurants.
Among the city’s finest are Restaurante Figueira Rubaiyat (Rua Haddock Lobo, 1738) – a large and elegant restaurant built around an enormous fig tree. The menu features inventive takes on traditional Brazilian dishes like feijoada, plus steaks and excellent seafood
The Sky Bar atop of the boat-shaped Unique Hotel is a great example of Brazil’s adventurous approach to design. It’s also arguably the home of Brazil’s finest caipirinha – the cocktail made from the sugar-cane derived spirit, cachaça. The terrace here, complete with loungers,and a pool, offers the most stunning view of the city and the best way to ease into the Brazilian way of life
The Dalva e Dito is the newest addition to SP’s vibrant restaurant scene. Alex Atala is in charge and is aiming to mach the success of D.O.M. – one of the world’s top 50 restaurants. Again the cuisine is haute Brazilian and is to South America what E Bulli is to Europe.
Across the street from Trianon Park and the MASP, the Tivoli Mofarrej effortlessly blends colonial tradition with high concept design. A multi award-winning establishment, the Tivoli is a contender for the best business hotel in South America.
Rio de Janeiro
Home to Carnival, the world’s largest festival, Rio is the public face of Brazil. The drop-dead gorgeous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, the photogenic Sugarloaf Mountain, and the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado Mountain – one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
In fact, who am I kidding – Rio has the most spectacular settings of any metropolis anywhere in the world. It knocks even iconic San Francisco into a cocked hat.
The Sambódromo, a permanent parade avenue lined with grandstands evidences the importance of Carnival, while the Maracanã stadium, one of the world's largest stadiums does the same for football. And that’s before Rio de Janeiro gets into the beat as host of the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Foodies are well catered for in Rio. If you like meat, there is no better place than Porcao where the waiters bring skewers of perfectly cooked cuts of meat until you literally beg them to stop. This popular churrascaria is on the if kitsch side, but don’t let that put you off – the caipirinhas will rectify everything.
Antiquarius Grill is another elegant eatery serving some of Rio’s finest Portuguese-style cuisine near Pepe beach.
When Hotel Fasano hit Rio, it surpassed even the fabled Copacabana Palace as the top play den for Brazil’s rich and famous. Designed; by Philippe Starck The 91-room Fasano rises along the eastern end of Ipanema Beach. The bossa nova-chic hotel with its favella-fabulous lobby and sexy rooftop pool oozes appeal.
Rio has the most spectacular settings of any metropolis anywhere in the world. It knocks even iconic San Francisco into a cocked hat.
Manaus is the jumping-off point for exploring the Amazon – which, with its tributaries make up a fifth of the world's supply of fresh water. Not too long ago, options were limited: you flew to Manaus, stayed at the Tropical Manaus Hotel on the outskirts of the city, and took day trips to the edge of the forest. These days it’s a bit more hands-on.
Fear not though, you needn’t look like a dishevelled extra from Herzog’s whacked out movie Aguirre, Wrath of God. Lodgings a reasonable degree of comfort have sprung up all over the Amazon region in the past four or five years. This effectively means that adventure tourism and pleasure aren’t mutually exclusive concepts.
Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge, on the Rio Negro is one such place that has responded to the international boom in ecological tourism. The restaurant perched on the edge of one of the Amazon’s biggest tributaries is one of the best culinary experiences you’re ever likely to have.