Argentine tourists have staged a British invasion, with record numbers flying in to the UK in the last year, according to an article by Matt Chorley published in the Daily Mail. The influx of more than 100.000 visitors, up more than a quarter year-on-year, comes despite renewed tensions between the two countries over the status of the Falkland Islands.
Apparently attempts by Argentine President Cristina Fernandez to stoke anti-British feeling have failed to stop her compatriots from spending a record £104million during holidays and business trips in 2012.
Despite the war of words (and threats) between the Argentine president and Prime Minister David Cameron controversy seems to have fuelled further interest among Argentines to holiday in the UK, says Chorley in his piece.
In fact British tourism bosses believe the influx of Argentine football stars into the UK Premier League, including Man City’s Carlos Tevez and Newcastle’s Fabricio Coloccini, has also helped to stimulate interest in holidaying in Britain.
The number of visits from Argentina rose in 2012 by 27% to 103.500, the highest year-on-year increase from anywhere in the world. Visitor numbers were also more than five times higher than in 2002, when just 19,000 arrived in the UK.
And it was more than 25 times greater than the 4,000 visits made in 1983 the year after Lady Thatcher’s government liberated the Falkland Islands from the Argentine military invasion of 2 April 1982.
In 2012, Argentines stayed in the UK for a total of 1.07million nights, an 84% increase on 2011. Visitors from Argentina spent £101million, up from just £40million a year earlier. The visits included 22,000 more holidays in the UK, 2,000 extra business trips, 1,000 visiting students but the number of trips to visit friends and family fell by 2,000.
David Leslie, spokesman for tourism agency VisitBritain, said: ‘2012 was a record year for visits and spend from Argentina, up 28% from the previous year and accounting for nearly one-fifth of all visits from Central and South America.
‘We know that Britain’s contemporary culture and rich heritage is highly regarded, while many younger Argentine visitors see London as a vibrant city and the fashion centre of Europe.
‘If you take a look around the Premier League you’ll also find some fantastic Argentine players plying their trade, and with major events like the Rugby World Cup taking place here, we hope we’ll be able to give a warm welcome to an even greater number of Argentines coming to experience the very best of what Britain has to offer’.
Official tourism figures for 2012 showed record numbers of visitors from several countries, including China and record spend by Australians and Canadians. But the 27% increase in visitors from Argentina put it well ahead of other growth markets including Hungary (24%), Egypt (23%) and China (20%).
Tourism minister Hugh Robertson said: ‘The tourism industry plays a key part in selling a modern, welcoming and dynamic Britain abroad that helps contribute to economic growth and drive investment”.
However relations between the countries’ two leaders have been far from warm. Earlier this year President Cristina Fernandez used newspaper adverts to insist Argentina was ‘forcibly stripped’ of the Falklands in a ‘blatant exercise of 19th century colonialism’ – a claim branded ‘crazy’ by Whitehall officials.
In an open letter to PM Cameron, published as an advert in Left-wing newspapers on the 180th anniversary of the alleged January 1833 takeover, she accused the UK of defying United Nations resolutions by refusing negotiations over the Falklands.
But in a strong message which risked angering Buenos Aires, PM Cameron made clear that he was ready to respond with force if threats to the islands emerged. He insisted that despite defense cuts, Britain would be able to defend the Islands again, as Lady Thatcher did in 1982.