Argentina’s tourism industry is booming, with experts forecasting a “record season” ahead in the coming months.
Hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, the sector is hoping to continue its recovery after bouncing back last year from an almost total shutdown in 2020. The Tourism & Sports Ministry said this week it expects more than 16 million tourists to mobilise in the first three months of this year.
Earlier this week, the national government said that Argentina's main tourist destinations were enjoying "an excellent start to the year" with accommodation in popular areas such as Villa Gesell, Pinamar, San Carlos de Bariloche at more than 90 percent occupancy.
On Thursday, representatives from the tourism industry in Buenos Aires Province said that they expected the 2022 summer season to set new highs, with Argentines travelling to the coast in record numbers.
“A record season is expected across the country, with growth even in destinations that are not usually popular in summer,” said Daniel Loyola, president of tourism from the Economic Federation of the Province of Buenos Aires (FEBA).
“For example, in the Province of Buenos Aires, specifically in the city of La Plata, in the last quarter, hotel and gastronomy activity grew 89 percent compared to 2020. If a destination that is not traditionally touristy has that increase, other more traditional areas such as the Partido de la Costa or the areas near the Buenos Aires mountains, as well as other leading provinces for tourism, are going to be at the top.”
Experts hope this year’s numbers will outpace those recorded in 2021, which were boosted in part by the government’s PreViaje scheme, which sought to revive pandemic-stricken tourism by reimbursing tax-payers for part of their expenses.
Some 4.5 million travellers in Argentina used the government’s Previaje programme last year, generating turnover of close to 100 billion pesos, a report said this week. The scheme, which offered a 50 percent credit towards the advance purchase of tourist services in the country, reached roughly a tenth of the population in 2021, according to government data.
Of the 99 billion pesos spent on tourism, “51 percent of consumption went to travel agencies, 32 percent to accommodation and 12 percent to air transport services, with an average expenditure of 48,000 pesos per voucher,” a report from the Tourism & Sports Ministry said.
The PreViaje PAMI (Programa de Atención Médica Integral) version, aimed at retirees and reimbursing 70 percent of expenses, was used by more than 400,000 people, it added.
The provinces most chosen by tourists through the scheme were Buenos Aires (22 percent), Río Negro (19 percent), Córdoba (10 percent), Santa Cruz (nine percent), Mendoza (eight percent), Tierra del Fuego (seven percent), Neuquén (seven percent), Misiones (six percent) and Salta (six percent), while Buenos Aires City registered four percent.
As for specific destinations (towns or cities), the top five were San Carlos de Bariloche, Ushuaia, Mar del Plata, El Calafate and Puerto Iguazú, followed by Salta, Mendoza, Buenos Aires City, Villa Carlos Paz and San Martín de los Andes.
Responding to the report, Tourism & Sports Matías Lammens described the PreViaje programme as “the most important policy in the history of tourism."
He said that plan had seen the national government “inject more than 51 billion pesos into the sector” and been an important generator of employment during the holiday season.
The scheme has been heavily criticised by opposition politicians for its cost.