Valparaíso’s tourism receives boost following tragic fires

Chile’s hilltop communities come together in wake of infamous fire to develop strategy that will restore ‘The Jewel of the Pacific’ to former glory.

Volunteers and communities have united in efforts to revive Valparaíso’s fortunes. Photo by Cristobal Valenzuela Berríos
Volunteers and communities have united in efforts to revive Valparaíso’s fortunes. Photo by Cristobal Valenzuela Berríos

The fire that ripped through Chile’s iconic port town of Valparaíso in April caused utter devastation, taking 15 lives, injuring over 500 and destroying approximately 2,900 homes throughout 12 of the city’s 42 hilltop neighborhoods — leaving more than 12,500 people homeless. However, as history dictates, tragedy brings communities together and Chileans have wasted no time in planning for the future in a bid to revive the fortune of “The Jewel of the Pacific.”
Nicolás Mena, director of Chile’s National Tourism Service (Sernatur), recently met with union leaders and residents on Valparaíso’s famous Cerro Barón to discuss plans to strengthen the industry.

“Tourism is the third most important economic activity in the region so we want to increase visitors to Valparaíso,” said Mena via Sernatur’s website. “If you want to lift this charming city, visit the port.”

A number of initiatives such as “Chile es TUYO” and “Chile.Travel” are committed to regenerating the city most visited by domestic tourists and huge numbers of foreigners every year, including approximately 50 international cruise ships during the 4-month Chilean summer. Nine percent of Chileans who travel within the country decide to visit the city so hopes are high that the region will recover quickly.

Mena also explained how Sernatur is entirely committed to working with tourism entrepreneurs from all over Chile to develop both new and old businesses in the city. “Chile es TUYO” is a website dedicated to providing travel information, activities, services and prices to help both domestic and foreign tourists plan trips around Chile.

“The website receives 80,000 visits per month and 150,000 visits during the high season,” said National Director of Sernatur, Javier Vergara, in conversation with Calidad Turística. “The Facebook page has more than 350,000 fans and over 27,000 followers on Twitter. Tourists can find the best prices, transport and services using the website.”

A schedule of events, designed to attract visitors, also took place in Valparaíso to celebrate Cultural Heritage Day on May 25 . Director of Turismo de la Municipalidad de Valparaíso, Luigina Pruzzo, explained leading up to the event that a number of activities would be available to locals and tourists alike.

Museums, monuments and other places of public interest will be open for free and there will be a number of events leading up to the holiday such as “Sabores Porteños” giving visitors the chance to sample Valparaíso’s delicious cuisine.

Relief work is still underway in the port city, which has witnessed over 15,000 volunteers working all hours to aid those in need, but the future looks bright as Chileans pull together to restore Valparaíso to former glories.