International arrivals to South America fell by 48 percent in 2020 1

International arrivals to South America fell by 48 percent in 2020

  • Peru was the most affected by the pandemic with a 73% drop in international visitors, followed by Venezuela and Ecuador
  • Chile was the least affected with international tourists falling by 25% followed by Argentina and Colombia
  • Analysts project South America’s International tourism market will not reach pre-pandemic levels until at least 2022

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, industry analysts predict that international tourism will not recover in the region until at least 2022.

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.

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