The Cruise Restart: Chile's Undersecretary of Tourism Talks Progress

In 2019, Chile welcomed 275 cruises to its ports with about 30,000 cruisers going ashore. Obviously, the pandemic shut down cruising for about two years, though. During last winter's tourism season, just 100 cruises called at Chilean ports. 

That's about 25 percent of what Chile originally had anticipated pre-pandemic. So, in winter 2021-22, cruise tourism was clearly still in the "restart" mode as many travelers remained a bit insecure about traveling overseas on far-flung, exotic itineraries.

Building Momentum

Still, the 100 was a good start, believes Veronica Kunze Neubauer, Chile's undersecretary of tourism for the National Tourism Board (SERNATUR). Travel Agent recently chatted with Neubauer one-on-one about cruise tourism. One key point? “Chile is a secure country as 90 percent of all Chileans are vaccinated," she said. 

Veronica Kunze Neubauer, Chile's undersecretary of tourism
Veronica Kunze Neubauer, Chile's undersecretary of
(Photo by Chile's National Tourism Board)

Cruise ships circumnavigating South America, heading into the South Pacific or sailing within the southern region of the continent often embark and disembark guests at Valparaiso, the port for Santiago, Chile's capital city.

Those cruise guests head out during their pre- or post-cruise stays to visit Chile's cultural and heritage sites, said Neubauer, also emphasizing that cruisers enjoy tasting Chilean wines, sampling the gastronomy and exploring via eco-adventures in national parks. "Chile is very diverse," she added.

To boost knowledge about Chilean tourism offerings and the country's support of cruise tourism, in April 2022, Neubauer led a tourism board team that participated in Seatrade Cruise Global in Miami Beach, FL.

“With the new government’s strong policy of tourism, small cruises are a very important part of tourism in Chile," she explained. For example, increasingly, international cruise visitors to Chile are sailing on small expedition ships that are heading to Antarctica.

At the recent Miami Beach conference, Chilean authorities including Neubauer were present as Silversea Cruises announced that for winter 2022-2023, it will offer a seamless journey to Antarctica with exclusive expedition departures from Puerto Williams, Chile.

Most ships sailing to the White Continent depart from Ushuaia, Argentina. Instead, Silversea will position three ships—Silver Cloud, Silver Wind and Silver Explorer—at Puerto Williams.

The ultra-luxury line cited more convenient flight times with personalized service as it will operate an exclusive charter flight between Santiago and Puerto Williams. That, in turn, should foster faster ship transfers and even allow select calls at Cape Horn in southern Chile, delivering a “bucket list” experience for some cruisers.

Talking about last winter season’s Antarctica-bound cruise business, Neubauer said, “it was very good" on the cruise restart front. One reason, she said, was that consumers perceived small ships with fewer guests aboard to be safe. 

“Most of those cruise guests were from America and Canada,” she added, citing one big draw for North American cruisers as Patagonia and, in particular, the Chilean fjords. 

Of cruise guests embarking or disembarking in Chile, “70 to 80 percent go out and stay one or two nights in Chile,” she said. “Some stay more which is very good.”  

To assure cruise visitors have a “good experience,” Neubauer told Travel Agent that currently tourism officials are working closely with ports and institutions (police, customs and other departments) on processes related to inbound international visitor arrivals. The goal for cruise visitors is to “assure they have a nice, easy arrival so it works very well for next season," she noted.

Beyond Santiago and Puerto Williams, Chile is home to multiple other ports including Punta Arenas, Puerto Montt, Tierra del Fuego, Puerto Varas and others. International visitors can enter Chile via airports in Santiago, Iquique, Antofagasta and Punta Arenas.

Neubauer noted that she and officials from the Chile's National Tourism Board journeyed to the South Florida cruise conference recently “because of a change of value that we have had in tourism." The country sees great economic value and desires to attract even more cruise lines and cruise passengers than in the past. 

She mentioned the recent relaxation of Chilean entry requirements as helping to ease the flow of visitors. As of press time, international visitors arriving at Chilean borders must be vaccinated but no longer need a COVID-19 test.

Here’s the latest from the U.S. Department of State

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