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Chile promotes domestic travel to help depressed tourism industry

Wednesday, December 2nd 2009 - 05:36 UTC
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Punta Arenas is one of the cities hard hit by the impact of the economic crisis Punta Arenas is one of the cities hard hit by the impact of the economic crisis

In an attempt to survive the economic crisis and the depreciating US dollar, Chile’s tourism industry has amplified national travel promotions targeting local and foreign vacationers.

Chile’s tourism industry has been among those hardest hit by the crisis, with a 10% decrease in foreign visitors this past year. At the same time, the number of local residents opting to travel within Chile has grown by 9%.

Since the beginning of the crisis in 2008 hotels and airlines have put together special packages promoting Chilean destinations, the benefits of which have started to show.

Up until September Lan Chile airline reservations for travel within the country had increased by 20% compared with the same period in 2008.

Things may be on the verge of changing, however. According to Maritza Cartagena, products manager at Cocha, a Chilean travel agency, the recent depreciation of the US dollar has led many Chilean vacationers to consider travelling to locations outside of Chile.

“This will not affect our company’s sales, because those who were planning to travel within Chile will opt to travel abroad instead,” said Cartagena. But it obviously won’t help tourism revenue within Chile.

While some locations have seen a surge in tourism, others like the southern city of Punta Arenas (Region XII) have been hard hit by the economic crisis.

Punta Arenas is promoted as the Chilean cruise ferry hub for those braving the Antarctic, but it lags far behind its Argentine counterpart, Ushuaia. While 237 thousand cruise ship tourists visited Ushuaia last season only 87 thousand visited Punta Arenas.

This season the number has fallen to 71 thousand visitors.

“The main advantage Ushuaia has over Punta Arenas is that it takes two days as opposed to three to get to the Antarctic,” said Alejandro Riquelme, regional vice-president of the Production and Commerce Confederation.

“But there are also more benefits offered in the Argentine city where cruise ship operations are non taxable. Also, the [Chilean] regional and national governments have not invested much in the Magallanes region. In Ushuaia there are a cruise dock, an international airport and a marina, all of which are financed by the government and allocated to private businesses.”

No surprise then that more than 90% of traffic between the continent and the Antarctic takes place from and to Ushuaia.

By Gida Homad-Hamam - Santiago Times

Categories: Tourism, Latin America.

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