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Early days of a ‘Brazilian Cancún'

Getting to Guadalupe Beach, a pristine stretch of sand on the Atlantic in the northeastern Brazilian state of Pernambuco, used to be a dusty or muddy affair, depending on the weather.

Now the 14.5-km road between the beach and the city of Sirinhaém is paved, opening the way for a long-anticipated development plan known as the Guadalupe Tourism Center.

"This road provides the infrastructure that will attract private enterprises in the tourism sector," Amaro Queiroz, director of infrastructure programs for Pernambuco's Planning Secreteriat, told the newspaper Jornal do Comercio. The goal, as stated by IDB President Enrique V. Iglesias at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the road, is to ensure that Guadalupe "will become the Brazilian Cancún," a reference to the perennially popular Mexican resort.

The road, known as the Via Litoránea, is one of several that will help open up this beautiful--but until now under-appreciated--section of the Brazilian coast. A road and bridge that will link the nearby cities of Rio Formoso and Rio Ariquindá, along with a road that will connect the adjacent beaches of Carneiros and Tamandaré, are scheduled to be completed this year, according to Queiroz. The area will also get new sewerage and drinking water works as part of the project.

The IDB is also financing a project to protect coral reefs--a major tourist attraction--along the 120 km of coastline south of Guadalupe to the state of Alagoas. The project seeks to plan development in such a way as to minimize impact on the marine environment.

Government officials believe private investors in the hotel and restaurant industries will be eager to build new facilities in the region once basic infrastructure is up and running. Tourism development could also provide an important new source of jobs in an area where most people work in the sugar cane industry.

Variations of this strategy are being employed in several other Brazilian states under the Northeastern Tourism Development Project (known by the Portuguese initials PRODETUR), to which the IDB could ultimately lend up to $400 million. Brazil's Banco del Nordeste is also helping to finance the project.

Activities being carried out by PRODETUR are nearly complete, but at the ribbon-cutting in Guadalupe, Iglesias said the IDB is also preparing a proposal for a second stage of the program. Funds from that loan, which would finance additional improvements to the area's airport, sanitation and communication infrastructures, could be available by the year 2000. "The IDB identifies with Northeastern Brazil and will continue to support the development of this important region, which after being considered a problem, is now a place full of hope and achievement," Iglesias said.

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