The Mercosur tourism industry had a turnover of 15 billion dollars last year with the Brazilians providing the largest number of tourists to the group’s associates, according to a report from neighboring countries representatives presented at the International Tourism Bourse in Berlin.
Tourism for Argentina represented 6 billion dollars becoming the third most important industry of the country, equivalent to 7% of GDP. The number of arriving tourists was estimated at 5.7 million last year which represents an increase of 8% over 2010.
Tourism Secretary Daniel Aguilera described the current summer season in Argentina particularly for the seaside resorts along the Atlantic coast as ‘spectacular’, beginning on New Year with the Dakar Rally that took off from Mar del Plata.
In Brazil the industry represented 6.7 billion dollars, or 3.3% of GDP, but Brazil also provided a leading percentage of tourists to its Mercosur associates and in 2011 the same happened for the first time with Chile.
“This is the result of economic and social policies based on a stable economy that has enabled lower income Brazilians to join the formal consumer economy including travelling inside the country and overseas”, said Marcelo Pedroso, head of the Ministry of Tourism International Markets department.
For Uruguay, tourism represents 7% of GDP with a turnover of 2.2 billion dollars last year and well ahead of the country’s main export beef with 1.6 billion dollars and soybeans.
“For the last three years, from December to April, income as well as the number of tourists arriving has sustainedly increased”, pointed out Bejamin Liberoff, Director of the Ministry of Tourism.
Critstobal Luna, manager of ProChile Planning and Development, the country’s tourism promotion office, also considered 2011 a ‘record year’ regarding the number of arrived tourists: three million “and we are working to reach four million by 2014”
Last year’s figure represents a 16% increase over 2010.
Tourism has become Chile’s third ranking export industry equivalent to 3.2% of GDP. Between January and February 2012, Chile received almost 900.000 foreign tourists, which is 18% higher than the same two months in 2011.
To help the tourism industry Chile has trebled the hotel capacity, applied an open skies policy, lowered costs for cruises operating in local ports and allowed casinos to operate while the vessels sail in Chilean waters.
Paraguay, Mercosur junior member is not a magnet for Mercosur tourists although last year recorded an interesting increase.
“This last months we’ve seen an interesting phenomenon, “Paraguay became a corridor for many Argentines travelling to the south of Brazil and likewise for Brazilians heading to the north of Argentina and Chile, spent a few days in Asuncion” revealed Liz Cramer, Paraguayan Ministry of Tourism.
According to Ms Cramer the 520.000 tourists that arrived in Paraguay helped the local economy with 240 million dollars. “Our goal is 500 million dollars and half a million tourists in the next few years”, she added.