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Itaipu reaches 15 million visitors
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Trader Paulo Sérgio Bloch, 60, born and raised in Curitiba, but who has been living in Lages, Santa Catarina for the last 37 years, is the 15 millionth visitor to Itaipu Binacional. He was welcomed by the Brazilian general director, Jorge Samek, and his Paraguayan counterpart Carlos Mateo Balmelli, this Wednesday morning. The mayor of Foz do Iguaçu, Paulo MacDonald, also participated in the tribute to the special visitor.


The Paraguayan and Brazilian general directors of Itaipu, Carlos Mateo Balmelli and Jorge Samek, welcomed the trader, who was accompanied by his wife, Tânia, his daughters Ana Paula and Izadora Cristina, and his 10 year old grandson Nathan. When the family arrived at the plant, they were still unsure about the type of visit they would make.


But he received the gift of a special visit, as well as a Ñandeva handcraft piece and a Social Communication kit. The visit only excluded a decent to the turbine axle, as Nathan is below the required age limit for safe entry into the area. Furthermore, the family was invited to plant a tree at the Visitor’s Woodland, recording the number of 15 million visits in the annals history.


The tribute, according to Paulo Sérgio, was “a privilege and great surprise”. He said: “This only increases my expectations of visiting the plant”. The family, who travelled to Foz on Sunday by car, had set aside this Wednesday in order to visit Itaipu, after a trip to the waterfalls and some shopping in Paraguay.


The Brazilian general director, Jorge Samek, later affirmed that “it is an honor for Itaipu to host a family form Santa Catarina and make this visit all the more special”, and said also that the plant “is fully integrated with the region’s tourism trade”.


He continued by saying: “This number of visitors (15 million) represents the effort of the entire company, which ensures that, in addition to visiting the Iguaçu Falls and shopping in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, there is another great attraction in the region, in the form of the largest hydroelectric plant in the world.


This morning, after watching a film about Itaipu and planting the tree in the Visitors Woodland, the trader and his family will be guided on a special visit.


History and numbers


Visits to Itaipu began in 1977, when the plant was still under construction. From then to now, visitors from 188 countries and territories have entered through Brazilian and Paraguayan banks.


Brazilians, Argentineans, Paraguayans, Germans and Uruguayans, in that order, are the most frequent visitors to Itaipu, which currently opens its doors to an average 1,300 people per day - last year there were 431,746 visitors. In order to properly receive this public, the plant has two visitor reception centers – in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, and in Hernandarias, Paraguay – and it is investing in improving the quality of service provided to tourists.


Of the total number of visitors in the history of Itaipu, more than 11.3 million - or 75% or them – have entered from the Brazilian side of the plant and 3.7 million from the Paraguayan side. However, the Brazilians are few in number compared to the foreigners, who represent 54% of the historic total of visitors – in all, there were 8.2 million people visiting from other countries. In 2008 the flow of Brazilians in the plant remarkably surpassed that of the foreigners, which has not happened since 1989.


Tourist visits in Itaipu is directed by the Itaipu Technology Park Foundation, which, this year, will invest in projects such as the construction of a new observatory and the completion of the Visitors Reception Center’s refurbishment, in order to offer tourists more comfort. As from the middle of the year, panoramic visits will be carried out on special double-decker buses, similar to those used for tourists in Curitiba and Salvador.


Ranking of countries with the greatest number of visitors


1st  Brazil      6,753,989
2nd  Argentina   3,506,539
3rd  Paraguay  1,936,748
4th  Germany 326,442
5th Uruguay  254,409
6th  Chile     236,162
7th  Spain 232,218
8th  United States  213,202
9th  France 173,860
10th Italy  152,160
11th  Japan 144,519
12th  China   101,652
13th  Switzerland      85,720
14th  United Kingdom    67,982
15th  South Korea 61,503
16th Colombia 59,022
17th Holland  58,772
18th Peru  53,055
19th  Mexico    49,085
20th  Portugal    45,862