Rio Olympics 2016: Visa claims travel projections for Games is 'reassuring'
Earlier projections had predicted 380,000 foreign visitors during the games.
Visa Inc is forecasting 400,000 to 500,000 international visitors to Rio de Janeiro in August, a projection one of its top marketing executives called "reassuring" given economic and health issues swirling around the August games in Brazil.
Chris Curtin, Visa's chief brand and innovation officer, said those figures are based on an "enormous amount of transactions" in Visa's network in the region ranging from hotel nights, entertainment to transportation, as well as third-party historical data.
Visa's projections are higher than a 2014 prediction from Brazil's tourism agency of 380,000 foreign visitors while they are lower than the 590,000 foreign visitors who went to the United Kingdom for the last summer Olympics in 2012, according to UK government statistics.
The Rio Games run from August 5-21. Brazil was awarded the Olympics in 2009 when it was enjoying a period of strong economic growth, but has since fallen into its worst recession in decades, dragged down by a collapse in commodity prices.
Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff is also almost certain to be forced from office well before the Olympics, after losing an impeachment vote which has paralysed her government.
At the same time, the country is waging a battle against the Zika virus, which is linked to birth defects in newborns.
It is the first time that Visa is projecting Olympic travel attendance. The company has a unique vantage point on such plans because, as a sponsor of the International Olympic Committee since 1986, it is the only form of payment accepted besides cash for Olympic tickets and travel packages.
It's data, combined with historical attendance and spending, shows "a lot of demand for getting to Brazil" to participate in or watch the Olympics, Curtin said in an interview.
About 45 percent of travellers will come from Latin America and the Caribbean, 30 percent from Europe and only 15 percent from North America, Visa predicts.
Based on data from the 2012 Summer Olympics, travellers to those games were younger, more male and come from more emerging markets than average travellers.
Travel to Brazil will increase by 1.2 million travellers in 2016 compared with the average amount of tourists between 2010 and 2015.
Visa did not make a prediction of how much an average visitor to the games will spend. It said, however, that travellers to the London 2012 Olympic games spent an average of $1830, twice as much per visit as a typical tourist to the United Kingdom that year.
"(The Olympics) will bring the best of the world to Brazil at a time when Brazil could clearly use support and assistance," Curtin said.