Last week, under the glorious sunshine of late summer, a slew of government ministers toured the Curicó Province in the Maule Region of central Chile.
Heading to the remote stretch of coast some two hours south of Santiago, the troupe enjoyed the new pool, gym, bike and surfboard rentals at Cabañas Los Palafitos (“Cabins on Stilts”).
At Lake Vichuquén, they were taken on a boat ride by the Lancha Zodiac Ecológica company, before dining at the new restaurant at the Cabañas del Lago (“Lake Cabins) site.
This, however, was no ordinary junket trip – the regional ministers and mayors were visiting small, local run companies that were set up or expanded under last years “Capital Semilla FNDR Turismo” project, which injects capital into entrepreneurs and micro-businesses in regional areas.
“I am convinced that in two years our coastal zone won’t have to envy anything about other tourist regions,” said the mayor of Licantén, Héctor Quiero, “because we are working very hard to develop a thriving tourism sector.”
Many successful applicants are small tourist operators, who have been able to expand their existing infrastructure thanks to the funds.
“It was more than just winning money,” said 2011 winner and owner of the Cabañas del Lago, Rolando Correa. “Capital Semilla encouraged me to develop as a person. I was studying at university and it gave me the injection that I needed to get started. I achieved my dream to create a restaurant and now I have the confidence to develop more projects.”
Regional tourism director Julieta Romero said that she hoped many others could follow in Correa’s footsteps.
“With this tool he [Correa] could achieve his dream more quickly then he otherwise could have, and now he can add value to the activities that he offers on his site. We hope that many more people involved in tourism can take advantage of this tool that is being made available to them.”
Applications for the 2012 edition are open until March 22. For more information see the website of the Chilean Ministry of Economy, Tourism and Development.