Foreign travel to Chile up 14 percent this quarter

The rise in overseas visitors and an increase in foreign spending in hotels, airlines and restaurants point to a significant rebound in the sector after the drop caused by the February earthquake.

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Foreign travel to Chile grew 14 percent in the third quarter of 2010, compared to the same period in 2009, according to a report from the National Chamber of Commerce.

This increase is an important recovery from drops seen in quarters one and two, where visitor numbers declined 5.5 percent and 5.3 percent respectively following the 8.8 magnitude earthquake that hit the country on Feb. 27.

The tourism sector also saw a 12.2 percent increase in foreign bank card spending on travel-related services, namely airlines, hotels and restaurants, in quarter three compared to the previous year. This compares to growth of only 3.0 percent in quarter two.

The growth in visitors and in spending has been attributed to two primary factors: the national bicentennial celebrations in September and the rescue of the 33 miners who were trapped for 69 days in the north of Chile, capturing the attention of the world.

Domestic spending on tourism services is also on the rise in 2010, with growth of 21.2 percent and 20.8 percent in quarters two and three respectively, indicating that Chileans themselves are traveling more.

Travel companies in Chile have expressed confidence that the increase in Chileans traveling will continue as summer months approach in the southern hemisphere. In a report for Chilean daily newspaper La Nación, Andrés Sainte-Marie, commercial manager of tourism company Falabella Travels, predicted 20 percent growth in Chilean travel for the summer.

The decreasing value of the American dollar has particularly influenced increased Chilean travel overseas. With prices for many international airline tickets set in American dollars, the consistency of the Chilean peso has made foreign travel more affordable, spiking interest in destinations like Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and the Caribbean.

Growth in the tourism industry is partly due to the strength of the Chilean economy, says the report from the National Chamber of Commerce: “Increased employment, wage levels and availability of credit has produced a rise in expectations and an atmosphere of confidence and optimism, boosting consumption.”

This post is also available in Spanish