After two years of uncertainty and almost a complete pause in activities, tourism in Latin America is giving strong signs of recovery even reaching pre-pandemic levels.
Both outbound and inbound tourism have registered positive numbers that support the growth of regional tourism GDP of 48.2% compared to 2021, which was predicted last May by the World Travel and Tourism Council, with a generation of income worth 233,000 million dollars throughout the Americas.
A reflection of this growth is the fact that passenger traffic has increased until May 180.5% compared to last year, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). This data is accompanied by the conclusions of the Mastercard Institute, according to which reservations made from the US to the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Jamaica and Puerto Rico increased by 84%, 73%, 65% and 56%, respectively, compared to those made before the pandemic, in 2019.
The same study by this organization indicates that “despite the incredible challenges in the cruise industry, spending worldwide, including reservations, is approximately one tenth below 2019 levels”, a reality that is makes itself felt in Latin American and Caribbean ports.
“After having passed the worst crisis in the history of tourism, we are leaving,” Pablo Singerman, director of the master’s degree in Economics and Tourism at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) and the Singerman & Makón Economy and Tourism study, told EFE. .
“Since 2020 we have been doing studies, market research in which we were measuring two variables during the worst moments of 2020 and 2021: what was happening with people’s income and if the savings that were being generated would be used for internal tourism or outward. This gave us very interesting data,” adds Singerman, who explains that based on these surveys, they knew that “the recovery was going to be much faster than what had been predicted.” And so it is happening.
In Colombia, for example, air reservations for the June-August period were 304,315, a figure that exceeds by 148% those of the same period of 2021, when the country was beginning to emerge from the pandemic, and that is equivalent to 98% of the 311,763 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 it is still far from the more than four million tourists who entered in 2019 and generated 3.7 billion dollars in foreign currency. 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, and as of May 2022 only 120,000 foreigners had entered.
The tourism union calculates that it will take 51 months to return to previous figures to the pandemic, when close to six million tourists arrived in Chile In Argentina, it is domestic tourism that has flourished after restrictions on the use of dollars abroad, national tourist pre-sale programs and the eagerness to go out to travel after the pandemic.
According to official data, between January and March about 12.4 million Argentines traveled through the country, the highest figure in the last ten years, generating an economic spill of 311,562 million pesos (about 2,440 million dollars). The decline in outgoing tourism is closely linked to restrictions on the purchase of dollars: Argentines can only change 200 per month in the official foreign exchange market, they have to pay a 65% tax on their purchases abroad and they cannot finance in foreign travel fees.
Meanwhile, the sun rises on the beaches of the Dominican Republic, where the tourism sector has been decisive for the solid recovery of the economy, which expanded by 12.3% in 2021 and around 5% in relation to the level prior to the pandemic.
The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) pointed out last May that the land of merengue and bachata became the number one country in recovery of the sector, and that is how 644,861 tourists arrived in the Dominican Republic in June, the largest number of visitors for that month in all history. Little by little, Costa Rica is also returning to the numbers of 2019. During the first semester of 2022, the Central American country received 1,223,764 tourists, which corresponds to 71% of the visits registered in that same semester of the year in which the first cases of covid-19 in China.
Before the pandemic, this country of 5.1 million people received just over three million tourists each year and tourism employed some 400,000 people. In Cuba, whose tourism sector contributed 10% to the gross domestic product (GDP) before the coronavirus, the Government expects the arrival of 2.5 million tourists, which would translate into an economic investment of 1,159 million dollars. Already during the first five months of the year, it has received 682,297 visitors, which represents an increase of 496% compared to the same period in 2021.
This figure exceeds the total number of visitors throughout last year (573,944), according to the National Office of Statistics and Information of Cuba (ONEI). Another of the countries that can already say that it has returned to the situation before the pandemic is Brazil. There, tourism advanced 45.6% compared to May 2021 and registered an increase of 2.6% compared to April, driven by revenues recorded mainly in air transport, restaurants and hotels.
According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), in the accumulated until May, tourism grew by 50.2% in relation to the first five months of 2021, only 0.1% below what was registered in February 2020 Mexico also used all its potential to be practically on the other side of the corner. According to what was said by the Secretary of Tourism, Miguel Torruco, more than 41 million passengers were transported in the Mexican territory, on national and international flights in this period. This represents an increase of 82% compared to 2021, and is only 5% below the number of passengers who flew to Mexico in 2019.
RECEPTIVE TOURISM: A GREAT ALLY
Various factors, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, are causing some currencies such as the US dollar to appreciate strongly against regional currencies. Although this is worrying for some sectors, it could become a great ally to increase receptive tourism in Latin America.
(Read: Due to high inflation, the cost of air tickets rose 23%).
“Today we see that it is convenient for the United States, with its appreciation of the dollar, to 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,” concludes Pablo Singerman.