The historic February 27th earthquake left more than 90 percent of Chile’s hotels and tourist services without structural damage. The same can’t be said about Chile’s tourism industry. A huge number – perhaps as much as half – of all upcoming reservations made by foreigners have been cancelled.
It’s easy to see why. The international media showed, again and again, the worst damage Chile suffered, and people thought the whole country was shattered – which is far from true.
“After the earthquake, we had to come up with advertising strategies that would not cause any more damage to the image of Chile abroad,” said Laura Arriagada, General Secretary of Chilean Tourism Businesses (ACHEP), during a Wednesday seminar held in Santiago. The event gathered local authorities and experts to discuss how to “revitalize” tourism in Chile while sharing the lessons learned from last month’s adversities.
Arriagada highlighted the importance of having contingency plans in a land prone to catastrophes and cited the government’s post-quake measures taken so far, which include the creation of an emergency committee, looking for structural damage in touristic zones and buildings, funds to reactivate the industry, press releases, pictures and videos showing how undamaged Chile’s chief tourist treasures are.
Nevertheless, Arriagada emphatically acknowledged that “the local tourism industry is definitely not ready to face natural disasters.”
Another presenter at the symposium, Pablo Moll, general manager of Turismo Chile, said how important tourism’s revenues are for Chile’s rebuilding and re-energizing the economy in the highly affected zones. “The best way of revitalizing tourism in Chile is to generate responsible advertising,” he said, by which he meant honest word-of-mouth first-hand experiences. To get this, he insisted that the country had to make sure all facilities were functioning correctly before inviting people to travel here.
“The earthquake should be seen as an opportunity: whenever there is a crisis, there is a new chance being created,” Moll concluded.
By Beatriz León M. - Santiago Times