Chile prepares for the reopening of tourism in September
The South American country has been working intensively during the health crisis to recover an industry that has represented 3.3% of its GDP
Chile is one of the most diverse destinations with the greatest potential in the Americas, however it is still suffering from the onslaught of the health crisis caused by the Coronavirus. Even so, destination authorities have been working intensively to maintain one of the industries with the greatest projection to recover the country's economy. To find out the details on current affairs, we interviewed Andrea Wolleter, National Director of Sernatur. We share their responses below:
Until the health crisis erupted due to Covid-19, what was the situation of the tourism industry in your country?
Regarding figures prior to the pandemic, in 2019, 4,517,962 foreign tourists arrived in Chile. During the last year, in addition, tourism contributed to the national economy US $ 8,990 million. Of this total, US $ 6,069 million corresponds to domestic tourism and US $ 2,921 million to inbound tourism.
Tourism is an important activity for the economic and social development of our country. The contribution to direct GDP was 3.3% and presented a contribution of close to 600 thousand employed people, that is, 7.7% of the total number of employed persons nationwide. It is relevant to highlight that 58% of the jobs are occupied by women and close to 95% of those who undertake in the sector correspond to micro, small and medium-sized companies.
Today, the world tourism industry is experiencing an unprecedented crisis as a result of this pandemic. 100% of the world's destinations have established travel restrictions and 72% have completely closed their borders to international tourism. The World Tourism Organization estimates more than 100 million jobs are at risk and the losses are billions.
In Chile, the tourism industry is experiencing a particularly complex moment. The sector had already been hard hit by the October social crisis and this pandemic did not give room for recovery.
For this year 2020, according to estimates by the Undersecretariat of Tourism and Sernatur, we will have a drop of close to 70% in inbound tourism and 35.5% in national tourism, considering a gradual reopening from September, depending on the sanitary conditions of the country and the provisions of the health authority.
What was the original plan and objectives for this year and how has it been modified by the health crisis?
Without a doubt, this health crisis has represented a greater challenge, which has impacted our projections and goals that we had set before this scenario. Today we are focused on identifying the mechanisms that will allow us to develop a reactivation plan as soon as it is safe to travel again. Meanwhile, we support the dissemination of the economic support measures that the Government has ordered and activate support, information and guidance tools for the entrepreneurs that make up the industry.
Together with the Undersecretariat of Tourism, we have maintained an articulating role and coordinated work with the Ministry of Health and with the tourism industry with the aim of duly informing the tourist unions, tour operators and, when appropriate, travelers from abroad regarding of the prevention and control measures that are being adopted to limit transmission of the outbreak.
We are supporting the industry through information and accompaniment. We have several initiatives underway to stay connected - virtually - for the duration of this phase of the emergency, which necessarily implies pausing our movements.
With a view to the reopening, how do you work on the positioning of the destination and how does it describe the health system that will be offered to tourists worldwide?
Our main concern right now is taking care of people's health, the potential travelers that have Chile among their destinations. For now, our promotional campaigns are focused on it, making a call to take care of ourselves under the slogans We will meet again, for domestic tourism, and I dream of Chile, for inbound tourism.
Once the health situation allows it, we will reactivate our destination promotion campaigns to continue offering tourists the best of our land.
We have launched health protocols to prepare for the reactivation of the post-pandemic tourism sector. In a first instance, the recommendations are focused on tourist accommodation and restaurants. Soon, we will be adding other documents with recommendations for more specific segments, such as ski centers, corporate events, travel agencies and tour operators, tourism guides, adventure tourism, rural tourism, wine tourism, protected wild areas and for tourists.
This is part of the support and accompaniment measures committed by the National Tourism Plan announced by the Ministry of Economy, Development and Tourism and which we have implemented with the Undersecretariat of Tourism.
What initiatives were launched to support tourism companies?
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have launched various initiatives that are in favor of the national tourism industry, because we know the strong impact they have had. As a government, we have adopted a series of measures that seek to accompany and guide those who make up the industry in this stage prior to the start of the revival of the sector.
In short, in recent months, multiple strategies have been working to help companies mitigate the negative impacts of the health crisis. These tools available to the government will be useful for the sector and will allow us to better prepare for and face the impact of this contingency.
On the one hand, together with the Undersecretary's office for Tourism and Sernatur we launched the Toolkit for Tourism Guide, a digital platform that brings together in one place the different support initiatives that seek to promote the promotion of the sector with special emphasis on reactivation.
In addition, we have enabled new communication channels to respond in a timely manner to the requirements, doubts and concerns that may arise in our industry. This is how since April we have Turismo Atiende (by phone 600 600 60 66, WhatsApp +56 9 9458 0453 and email firstname.lastname@example.org), a permanent line of communication that guides companies and people that work in the sector regarding the initiatives that exist for them.
Another initiative has been Activa Tourism, a completely free cycle of online talks, on topics of interest to tourism workers and that provides support tools for tourism entrepreneurs that allow them to find more and better ways to overcome the crisis. More information on upcoming dates and exhibitors at www.sernatur.cl/activaturismo.
Strong work is being done at the territorial level and with tourist destinations, through private public meetings to promote the co-construction of road maps for reactivation.
On the other hand, we have worked together with other government institutions to make promotion and management measures available to our industry, such as the Technical Cooperation Service (Sercotec) and the Production Promotion Corporation (Corfo), with resources that go in direct benefit of the micro, small and medium-sized companies in the country.
In terms of promotion, the national promotion campaigns #NosVolveremosAEncontrar and international promotion # SueñoconChile #IDreamofChile were launched, with which it seeks to maintain in the retina of tourists the unmissable attractions and beauties that our country offers.
We started the Chile training cycle, your best bet, an initiative that seeks to strengthen the marketing chain of travel agencies by deepening their knowledge of national destinations that will be promoted in a first stage of reactivation.
And for international markets, we begin with a cycle of webinars that seek to publicize the best attractions in Chile to foreign tour operators. This is I Dream of Chile Sessions, where the potential of national destinations is presented to issuing operators in Argentina, in order to update and strengthen their portfolio.
What kind of promotional activities and benefits do you plan to recover the number of tourists?
The National Tourism Plan includes economic contributions that are related to an impulse to national promotion, which is a fundamental element for the reactivation of the sector, once the country's health reality allows it. In this sense, the promotion of internal tourism will be very important in the first phase of recovery, an area in which Sernatur will allocate a budget of one billion pesos to promote internal travel.
In addition, an important part of the government's investment in tourism will be concentrated on capitalizing on the potential of Sernatur's social tourism programs (Senior Holidays, Study Tour and Family Tourism) and boosting them with more than 16 million dollars between 2020 and 2021, so that more people travel through Chile, which will result in more companies benefiting.
Additionally, through the National Fund for Regional Development (FNDR), the regions will have a budget of more than $ 2 billion for dissemination and promotion.