South American countries reap tourism’s benefits

Traditional houses in Chile

With its revenue directly benefiting both individuals and firms, tourism is emerging as one of the strongest economic drivers in Latin America.

In 2007, the continent received a record 68.6 million international arrivals. This was an increase of 2.9 per cent. Tourism receipts in this period were $58.9 billion, or an increase of 9.7 per cent.

The growth was also higher than the world average of 5.6 per cent, and these numbers represent the highest growth worldwide, except for the Asian markets.

Brazil, of course, is leading the trend, with the World Travel and Tourism Council estimating that the South American powerhouse has seen its tourism economy grow by 7.2 per cent in 2007, almost two per cent higher than the global average. With its mountains, beaches, cities and rainforests, it is a strong attraction for leisure tourists looking to combine various kinds of experiences into a single vacation. It is also investing in tourism infrastructure, promoting both its rainforests and its golf internationally, as well as building the fifth largest airport in the world. In the first half of the year, 3.2 million people arrived in the country on international flights, growth of 2.67 per cent over the same period in 2007.

The Chilean government, too, has put ravel and tourism on the shortlist of industries that should form the base of further economic development. The positive effect on employment and the opportunity to revive economically depressed areas has motivated the government to encourage development in tourism The policy objective for tourism is to position Chile as a key destination based on sustainable and special interest tourism, mainly targeted towards long-haul travellers. Seventeen new casino licenses were granted in 2007.

Meanwhile, the Dominican Republic has Latin America’s highest tourism receipts per GDP. According to the Latin Business Chronicle,  11.1 per cent of the country’s GDP comes from tourism. Costa Rica with 7.5 per cent and Panama with six per cent are two other countries with high tourism revenues. The report reveals that Panama has experienced the largest increase in tourist visitors while Uruguay had the largest increase in revenues derived from tourism.

In Argentina, tourism is becoming more important as it now generates more jobs than ever. In 2007, both incoming and domestic tourism increased significantly due to a devalued peso and overall development of the Argentinean travel and tourism product. The country, which expects eight million tourists this year, is now reaching out to the Middle East and is likely to sign a draft tourism agreement with Jordan before the end of the year, according to reports in The Jordan Times. 

By Clark Kelly