Chile: Is on its way to become the tourist revelation of South America

Silent, constant, humble, persevering, hardworking, dedicated, thorough, faithful to what it has always proved to be. This small country extending from north to south, from the south of Peru to the southern immensities of the National Park Cabo de Hornos, borders Bolivia and the entire west boundary of Argentina with its long narrow area. Framed by the mountain range of the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, Chile has vastly proved the correct use of its resources.

In 2016 Chile closed the year achieving a record in the arrival of international tourists reaching the figure of 5.6 million tourists. Thus it got into the leading group of South America, historically monopolized by Brazil and Argentina, usually in that order. These two countries are in the order of 6 million tourists but each one with its problems since Brazil had a rebound thanks to the World Cup reaching 6.6 million tourists but nothing is predicting that it will easily continue the path of sustained growth and Argentina. On the other hand, had a steep fall that began in 2011 and that only by the end of 2016 began to recover, still under mild symptoms, reaching 5.7 million tourists, just above the number reached by Chile in the same year.

So though surprising what Chile achieved in 2016, capping a two-year growth above 20% as it can be seen in the following table, it seems that the best is yet to come.

Year Tourist arrivals % growth
2010 2,800,637
2011 3,137,285 12.0%
2012 3,554,279 13.3%
2013 3,576,204 0.6%
2014 3,674,391 2.7%
2015 4,478,336 21.9%
2016 5,640,700 26.0%
2017 1st quarter 19.2%

In the first quarter of 2017, Chile saw a growth in tourist arrivals of 19.2%, suggesting that the year will end with a total arrival of international tourists from 6.4 to 6.5 million tourists. That is, surely above Argentina and quite possibly disputing the leadership to Brazil.

Undoubtedly, that was something unthinkable just three years ago.

Argentina as a major demand driver in the region

An important fact is that the Argentines seem to have been crucial for achieving the records of arrival of international tourists in South America in the other two countries sharing the podium: Brazil and Chile.

Brazil reached its record of 6.6 million in 2016 thanks to the arrival of 2.1 million Argentine tourists, which represented 31.8% of total revenues, while Chile reached its record of 5.6 million in the same year thanks to the arrival of 2.9 million Argentine tourists, 51.4% of total arrivals.

It is clear that apart from the attractiveness of each of the two destinations, the macro situation in Argentina, in a process of change and with still important problems to solve, is playing an important role both in Chile and in Brazil. In that scenario, the exchange rate lag and inflation have turned many international destinations very competitive for Argentine travelers.

For thousands of Argentines, Santiago de Chile has become the South American “Miami”, a new shopping mecca, both because of the price of products (in many cases at half price) and because of variety in comparison with an economy that has recently begun to reopen and still retains a heavy burden of unproductive costs.


Under a slowdown in economy that seems to continue to shape the reality of this 2017 as a general rule, Chile will surely complete this year a gold triennium becoming the second country in South America in terms of arrival of international tourists and with chances of springing a surprise and mark a historical landmark as the most visited country in the region.

Cosas vederes, Sancho, que non crederes.1

1Recognized quotation attributed to Sancho Panza, character of the Quijote de la Mancha, although it was never said by him or by anyone in the whole work of Cervantes Saavedra