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Latin American tourism shows strong signs of recovery post-pandemic

Published on July 18, 2022

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In the first half of 2022, the arrival of tourists to the Galapagos Islands, in Ecuador, almost reaches pre-pandemic levels.

Tourism in Latin America is showing strong signs of recovery, even reaching pre-Covid-19 pandemic levels. This occurs after two years of uncertainty and almost a complete break in activities.

In the first five months of 2022, passenger transport has increased 181% compared to the same period in 2021, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

For example, so far in 2022, the arrival of tourists to the Galapagos Islands almost reaches pre-pandemic levels, that is, 2019.

According to a Mastercard Economics Institute study, “despite incredible challenges in the cruise industry, spending globally, including bookings, is roughly a tenth below 2019 levels,” a reality that makes itself felt in Latin American and Caribbean ports.

Coming out of the worst crisis

“After having experienced the worst crisis in the history of tourism, we are back,” says Pablo Singerman, director of the master’s degree in Economics and Tourism at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA).

“Since 2020 we have been doing market research in which we measured two variables during the worst moments: what was happening with people’s income and if the savings that were being generated would go to domestic or foreign tourism,” says Singerman, also director of the study Singerman & Makón Economy and Tourism.

He adds that, based on these surveys, they knew that “the recovery was going to be much faster than what had been predicted.” And now, it is slowly happening; better in some countries than others.

In Colombia, for example, air reservations for the period June-August 2022 were 304,315. That is equal to an increase of 148% compared to the same period in 2021, when the country was beginning to emerge from the pandemic.

And the reservations for June-August 2022 are equivalent to 98% of those registered in the same period of 2019.

Peru has received more than 750,000 travelers so far this year, according to the Minister of Foreign Trade and Tourism, Roberto Sánchez.

But the country is still far from the more than four million tourists who entered in 2019 and generated $3.7 billion.

Chile doesn’t have it easy either. The country has not fully recovered from the double blow of the social protests of 2019 and the pandemic since 2020.

Take advantage of the dollar

Various factors, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, are causing some currencies, such as the dollar, to appreciate sharply against regional currencies.

This phenomenon is worrying for some sectors. But, for receptive tourism in the region, the strengthening of the US dollar could become a great ally to increase the arrival of travelers. Except for Ecuador, a dollarized country for more than two decades.

“Today we see that the United States, with its appreciation of the dollar, should go out to Latin America because in our countries with those dollars they can do more things, they can consume more products and services, they can enjoy themselves more,” concluded Pablo Singerman.

Galapagos tourism back to normal after maritime transport stoppage

Tourist activity in the Galapagos has returned to normal, after the stoppage of water taxi carriers, inter-island boats and boats on tourist routes.

The suspension of activities began on July 13, 2022, on Santa Cruz Island. The carriers began the stoppage due to the increase in the price of shipping fuel. This caused dozens of tourists in the Galapagos Islands to be unable to travel.

On July 14th, the Ministry of Tourism reported that national and foreign tourists are again making their tours normally. In addition, he emphasized that travel between the islands through maritime transport services is back to normal.

Andrés Ordóñez, executive director of the Galapagos Chamber of Tourism, explained that the carriers, together with the authorities, have reached agreements to avoid further stoppages. This tied to the review of the price of fuel in this area, which is asking to be considered as intercantonal transportation and not tourism.

“Therefore, now we have a panorama of momentary tranquility, until we find a solution to the problem that afflicts them (the carriers),” said Ordóñez.

The productive sector has also asked the authorities to review the price of fuel for tourist transport. This is because 85% of the economy depends on tourism, said the manager.

According to data from the Chamber, the growth trend in tourism continues. In the first semester of 2022, Galapagos reached 93% of total tourists in the first semester of 2019 and 48% of total tourists in the same year.

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