LATAM e-News – January 2018
Arturo´s Letter

Arturo García Rosa
President & Founder, SAHIC

South America: a huge and varied “explosion” of tourists in 2017.

Although final numbers will be available, with some exceptions, during the next couple of weeks, some destinations have already anticipated 2017 forecast figures.

The first numbers confirm what was being observed throughout the year and even reveal some surprises that are more than welcome, predicting a great future for that destination and the region in general.

Historically and steadily, South America have shown basically three well-defined segments in terms of Inbound Tourism. Brazil and Argentina included in the first segment, always in that order except in 2011, when Argentina led the regional ranking. Chile, Peru, Uruguay and Colombia, in the second segment, generally in that order and then with marked changes in the last five years. Finally, a third segment is composed of Ecuador and Paraguay, historically in that order.

Bolivia and Venezuela are not considered in these segments due to different reasons, including the fact that it is difficult, if not impossible in the latter case, to access resources and/or sources to validate more or less certain information. However, if available, certainly the countries would be included in the third segment.

International tourist arrivals totaled 35.6 million in 2017 in the whole region, including the countries listed in the three segments, representing an 8.9% year-on-year growth. A little below Mexico, which received 37.7 million tourists, but on scale above the world average of 7% to reach the total of 1,322 million international travelers.

The great news has been that the historic leaders of South America have given up their places of privilege to two new players who have been booming in the last few years: Chile and Colombia.

As shown in the comparative table below, Chile received 6.5 million tourists while Colombia reached 6.3 million.

Brazil, with an almost flat performance in the last 10/15 years, with the exception of the climbing caused by sporting events such as the Football World Cup and the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, has fallen again to return to this almost flat state commented, reaching the arrival of 6.2 million tourists, which implies a fall of 6% compared to the previous year.

Argentina, emerging from a continuous decline caused by a combination of absurd measures of the previous government and the discredit in front of the international business community, returned to the path of growth but still far from the figures reached years ago and decidedly not in line with the country’s tourism potential. According to our estimates, the numbers would be in the order of 6 million arrivals, a 6.8% year-on-year growth.

Chile confirmed the growth of the last years and although there are certain fears regarding the sustainability of this growth due to the strong impact of the Argentine market on it (52% of total arrivals), there seems to be no clear signs that this would change from day to night, and that, on the contrary, there is enough time to turn this growth into a clear rise in the historical floor of this country.

Regarding Colombia, there is little doubt, if any, that this is a different phenomenon from that of Chile and, as such, it is anticipated a very interesting future for this destination within the global context of the tourism business.

It is to be expected that the two great powers of South America, Brazil and Argentina, will return to the path of growth where they used to be, especially in the case of the latter. This will be very beneficial to each of their destinations and, of course, to the region as a whole.

Next article will deal with what happened in the Caribbean and Central America this past year but we cannot fail to mention the impressive performance of Cuba, much more so after the advent of the new president of the United States and, above all, the adverse and/or restrictive measures implemented by him in the last months.

Contrary to what one might have imagined, Cuba reached 4.7 million tourists, a growth of 9.9% compared to the previous year. And what is strikingly significant is the growth of U. S. citizens who arrived on the island, a figure that totaled (not counting Cubans residing in the northern country), 619,523 visitors, representing a growth of 217% compared to the previous year.

“Cosas veredes que non crederes.” That’s Latin America. Very good!

2018 will be a great year and we will be there to contribute with our platform to business growth in the region.