Tourism is a growing sector, employing more than 200,000 Chileans. According to Sernatur, the state tourism agency, the number of foreign visitors increased nearly 11 percent in 2005, to roughly two million. Total revenues for the year were about US$1.5 billion.
Most visitors come from other South American countries. In 2004, the last year for which full statistics are available, the largest numbers came from Argentina (576,000), Peru (186,000), Bolivia (135,000), and Brazil (119,000). From overseas, the greatest numbers came from the United States (166,000), Germany (59,000), Spain (50,000), the United Kingdom (50,000), France (48,000), Canada (28,000), Australia (27,000), Italy (26,000) and Switzerland (17,000). The greatest increases have come from Canada, Germany, and Spain.
North American and European travelers stay for longer periods and spend about five times as much per capita than those from neighboring countries. According to Sernatur statistics, for example, Argentines spent only US$26 per day, while U.S. visitors averaged US$54, Canadians US$59, Spaniards US$60, and Britons US$71.
Compared to other countries, though, Chile spends little on promotion; in 2003, the total was about US$1.6 million. Costa Rica, by contrast, spent about US$12 million and New Zealand US$50 million. There are few tourist offices outside the country—in Washington, D.C., Miami, and Madrid only.
One advantage, in addition to Chile’s natural and cultural attractions, is that it may well be the hemisphere’s safest country. Unfortunately, its international profile is low except for the hangover from negative publicity such as the Pinochet controversy.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition