The Chilean Torres del Paine National Park received a record number of foreign visitors during 2003 with a 22% increase over 2002.
The number of foreign visitors, particularly Europeans, jumped from 50,383 to 61,533. However the number of Chileans dropped 3,8% from 25,901 to 24,924.
Guillermo Santana, manager of Torres del Paine Park said that the return of foreign visitors can be explained by the interest shown by overseas investors who have helped with the construction of new lodges and facilities, plus the aggressive promotion of the Chilean Tourist Office worldwide.
When asked if the growing number of visitors could have a negative impact for the environment Mr. Santana argued that "we've carefully planned conservation, and besides the area actually visited is insignificant compared to the whole extension of the park".
"The zoning of visiting areas and rotation plays a key role in our conservation policy", added Mr. Santana.
"We expect the number of foreign visitors to keep increasing in the coming years and we are prepared for it with the improvement of infrastructure, better roads, and the combined private and government promotion efforts", said Tolentino Soto, the elected mayor of Natales.
Mr. Soto also revealed that for the coming season a train will be linking Puerto Natales with Puerto Bories, a major event for Aysen Region. Similarly a local cruise will be taking visitors to see the Balmaceda and Serrano glaciers.