South America’s tourism is fragile compared to regions such as North America and Europe. Unstable political climates, fears of corruption, and perceived crime are all factors that impact the continent, and these risks have only increased over 2020 as a consequence of the pandemic.
Tourist hotspots Peru and Ecuador were some of the most severely affected nations recording a 73% and 70% drop in international visitors respectively. Venezuela’s dismal economic situation and political disruption, coupled with the COVID-19 epidemic saw its already fledgling tourism industry continue to fall by 71%. As a result, leading data and analytics company GlobalData predicts that international tourism will not recover in the region until at least 2022.
Craig Bradley, Associate Travel Tourism Analyst at GlobalData, commented: “South America’s tourism industry’s recovery will depend largely on freedom of movement, infrastructure and the economic costs of travel."
However, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Countries with diverse geographical landscapes seemed to fare better than more centralized areas in South America, slowing the tourism decline over 2020.
Geographic diversity was a key factor. Chile and Argentina have diverse climates ranging from desert landscapes, vineyards, rainforests, beaches, glaciers and mountains. Many of these landscapes have purpose-built resorts and infrastructures which attract cruise, ski, gastronomic, backpacking and beach tourists, to name a few. As such, tourism in these regions only fell by 25%
The location has and will continue to be an essential factor in destination recovery. For example, Colombia can attract tourists from the US through short flight times and low-cost air tickets.
Bradley added: “Outside of South America, the US continues to be South America’s most significant source market. Colombia, in particular, has seen considerable growth over recent years, with US tourism increasing by 180% between 2009 - 2019. As a result, Colombia’s international tourism will help drive South America’s recovery, with 2019 tourist numbers expected to reach pre-pandemic levels as early as the end of 2021.”
Intraregional travel is just as important to South America’s recovery. Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina are the most significant source markets for many countries due to accessibility and family ties. Therefore, the tourism industry’s recovery will depend mainly on freedom of movement, infrastructure, and travel costs.
Bradley continued: “Intraregional travel is just as important to South America’s recovery. Travelling to visit friends and relatives is the second most popular holiday reason for South Americans, with many populations having family ties across the continent. Therefore, the tourism industry’s recovery will depend largely on freedom of movement, infrastructure and the economic costs of travel.”