SANTIAGO — Travel restrictions have become commonplace amid the pandemic. Since early this year, governments all over the world have closed their borders. In Chile, that has come at a tremendous cost to the tourism industry.
Strict travel restrictions have been mandated in many countries due to the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), of all the major economic sectors, tourism has been the most affected by the coronavirus crisis.
The UNWTO’s World Tourism Barometer shows how Covid-19 has impacted the tourism industry. According to the pamphlet, in the first five months of 2020, international tourism saw a 56 percent drop when compared to the same period last year.
The report says that May has been the worst month so far, with a 98 percent drop. The pamphlet also says there were “300 million fewer international tourist arrivals in January-May 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.” Consequently, US$320 billion were lost as a result of the decline in international tourism.
What Do The Numbers Look Like In Chile?
Tourism is an important source of income for Chile. Data from the National Tourism Service (Sernatur) shows that tourism accounted for 3.3 percent of the country’s GDP in 2019. Another seven percent came from employment, as nearly 600,000 people were employed in the area.
El Desconcierto reported in June that the National Statistics Institute released data showing that, from February to April, at least 120,000 jobs were lost by the industry. That equals one-fifth of the jobs created annually.
According to the July 2020 Tourism Barometer, released by the Undersecretary’s Office, from January to June, foreign tourism dropped nearly 57 percent, and as restrictions throughout the country tightened, in June that figure reached a stunning 99.7 percent.
Another concern was the decline in occupancy rates. According to the NSI’s latest monthly Survey on Tourist Accommodation, 214,365 overnight stays were recorded in June throughout the country. A fall of over 86 percent when compared to the same month last year.
How Is Chile Handling The Decrease In Tourism?
In June, the Ministry of Economy launched the “National Tourism Stimulus Package.” It aims to slowly and responsibly reactivate the industry. According to the government’s announcement, the plan “includes subsidies of up to US$7 billion.” Lucas Palacios, Minister of Economy, said the stimulus plan has two stages: the first would seek to enliven tourism gradually between June and September. The second, for which nearly US$3 billion will be allocated, will encourage domestic traveling.
The plan is meant for small tourism companies that have been hit hard by the health crisis. Protocols are being written to reopen hotels, restaurants, and different tourism establishments.
A similar initiative was announced on Aug. 18. A certificate called “Tourist Confidence” will be given to tourism companies (registered with Sernatur) that abide by all the protocols and guidelines issued by the Ministry of Economy or the Tourism Undersecretary’s Office. The idea is to help travelers identify which companies are following health protocols when running their business. Once issued, it will be valid for one year.
Fernanda Gándara is currently finishing her journalism degree at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. She’s passionate about writing, environmental issues and women empowerment. You can find her on Twitter as @FerGMarchant