Author: Lorena Palacios-Chacón, researcher at Thematic Area Group in Corporate Strategy of Tecnológico de Monterrey Business School, and Jahir Lombana, professor of Uninorte (Colombia).
Tourism is one of the industries with the most projection after the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Although there is a lot of uncertainty due to the rebound effect of inflation and degrowth, people have sought the means to travel in recent times. In 2022, according to the World Tourism Organization, this activity would grow with a positive trend, especially in Europe and the Americas, although uncertainty remains due to the resurgence of the pandemic, the appearance of monkeypox and the war between Ukraine and Russia. whose global impact remains to be seen.
In the case of Latin America, it can, together with remittances, be an alternative source of foreign currency and represents the possibility of diversifying its export structure, which is fundamentally based on commodities. The importance of tourism is confirmed through a study recently published in the Tourism Research Magazine of the University of Alicante in which the determinants of competitiveness are identified for 19 Latin American countries.
The study compares macroeconomic, infrastructure and tourism industry variables. It was found that those countries that have better developed their information and communications technologies at the service of tourism and that have places that are of special attention and identified as world heritage sites are better attractors of international visitors. Additionally, the study is innovative in using bilateral databases between Latin American countries, which also reflects the interest of local tourists in traveling to neighboring countries.
It is important to continue motivating tourism in the region. In fact, the country with the largest number of tourists in Latin America by far is Mexico. In 2021 it was 7th in the world with 45 million tourists (half that of France, with 90 million) and in a year of post-pandemic recovery. In Mexico it is an industry that has not only turned its natural resources to the service of tourism as a comparative advantage, but has also created new attractions from them, which constitutes it as an example, not only hemispheric but also global, worthy of emulation. Other countries are trying to follow this path, but they will depend not only on external factors, which are already uncertain, but also on internal ones that they can somehow control.
Mexico and Guatemala are two destinations that have the Mayan culture in common, which is why there are highly desired archaeological tours that include both countries; Likewise, it is important to highlight that even today it is possible to observe the legacy of said civilization in some of its customs. Another example to highlight in the region is Costa Rica, which, according to Macro data, had more than 3,000,000 international visitors in 2019, coming mainly from the United States, Nicaragua and Panama, being a highly recognized destination for its activities. of adventure. The three destinations mentioned stand out for their natural and geographical diversity that makes them attractive to a wide variety of audiences. Finally, it is important to emphasize that most Central American destinations have coasts on both oceans, which allows their beaches and surrounding landscapes to have a special touch; Likewise, the Panama Canal, in addition to being a key piece of infrastructure for international trade, has become a tourist attraction that can be visited from outside as a spectator or as a passenger on one of the cruise ships that passes through it.
Given post-pandemic conditions, it is possible that people will continue to prefer nearby trips, or those countries where devaluation attracts new visitors. It would also be expected to motivate the visitor with additional savings on their stay, cancellation flexibility and rescheduling without surcharges. Low seasons may now be shorter and business trips may move to Zoom, Meet or Team. Likewise, the rise in sustainable and luxury tourism previously seen as opposing poles is increasingly finding more compatibility. Although this is one of the most dynamic sectors internationally, it is also worth highlighting that adaptability and resilience are fundamental aspects for its permanence and growth. Latin America and its cultural and geographical wealth have acquired such recognition that even the film industry has animatedly shown part of its beauty and traditions. The film Rio is based on the fauna and music of colorful Brazil; Coco represents the day of the dead in Mexico; and more recently, Encanto showed the typical costumes, foods and landscapes of Colombia. Everyone in the region is attentive to what the new production will be and while that happens, the invitation is to continue enjoying Latin America for Latin Americans.
Originally published in Forbes Centroamérica.