BRASILIA – Tourism will be one of the big drivers of Latin American development if and when connections among the countries of the region are improved, ministers of the sector and airline representatives agreed at a forum that ended this Tuesday in Brasilia.
The second and last day of the Leaders Forum of the Air Transport Association of Latin America and the Caribbean (ALTA) had among its speakers tourism authorities from Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru, who among the weaknesses of the sector pointed to the paltry governmental efforts to achieve better airline connections.
“We’re at the end of the world,” said Argentina’s Gustavo Santos, secretary of tourism in the government of President Mauricio Macri, whose term in office ends next Dec. 10, following last Sunday’s election won by the Peronist Alberto Fernandez.
According to the Argentine official, in order to improve the serious problems of connectivity among Latin American countries, and of the region with the rest of the world, joint action by governments and private companies is essential.
“We promote destinations and airlines promote their flights, but we seldom promote anything together,” Santos said.
Coinciding on that point was Peru’s Foreign Trade and Tourism Minister Edgar Vasquez, who also noted the need for the region’s various countries to unite in order “to sell, in cooperation with the airlines and tourism operators, the ‘South America brand.’”
Vasquez justified the idea with the growing importance in the world of the Asian market, currently the greatest source of tourists anywhere.
“We must unite, above all with a view toward Asia, and make it easy for a Chinese tourist to fly to Mexico, travel on through Bogota, Lima and Buenos Aires, visiting different countries, as they already do in Europe, in spite of our distances being much greater,” he said.
Vasquez added that in partnership with companies of the tourism and transport sectors, governments should make travel easier among the countries of the region and “fix the bottlenecks impeding connectivity like expensive fares and high fuel costs.”
Chile’s National Tourism Service Director Andrea Wolleter also said that besides measures to lower prices, tourists should be able to take direct flights to their destination, which is often not the capital of a country.
She said in that regard that Chile has invested in the modernization of its regional airports, 16 of which receive international flights, so that tourists don’t have to make stopovers in Santiago.
Along the same line, Brazilian Tourism Minister Marcelo Alvaro Antonio said that his government is planning a greater participation of private companies in airport management.