Diversity: Chile's Greatest Asset for Agents

Travel Agent recently sat down with Pablo Retamal, director of the Chilean Tourism Promotion Corp., who urged agents to stress the safety, stability and diversity of this South American country to sell it effectively.  Guests about to board a Nomads of the Seas' helicopter

Retamal says agents should target the "sophisticated" traveler when looking for clients to send to Chile. He says this is usually the 55- to 60-year-old baby boomer vacationer who has a deep appreciation for other cultures, as well as a love of soft adventure, including skiing or snowboarding.

In 2006, about 200,000 U.S. travelers visited Chile for more than one night, 40,000 of which were cruise passengers, Retamal says. This number increased by nine percent from 2005, he says. The country received about two million visitors total.

Retamal stressed that Chile's main asset is its diversity, offering opportunities for eco-tourists, skiing enthusiasts and wine lovers, as one-third of the country is made up of fertile wine regions. Most Americans tend to travel to Chile from December to March. The peak ski season is from June to October. The wine harvest usually takes place in February and March.

"There are very few places where you can ski one day, look at the ocean on another and visit the desert the next," Retamal says.

Pablo Retamal, director, Chilean Tourism

And with an amendment to its law regarding casinos, the country can offer clients another hook. Retamal says restrictions on gambling were recently lifted after about a five-year struggle to attract more foreign investment. Since the law was amended, Retamal says about 10 projects for casinos are already in the works. Although he didn't release specifics, Retamal told Travel Agent that some projects involve major U.S. casino companies. Casino construction will begin in Chile in as early as two years, Retamal says.

He also encourages agents to assure clients that Chile is safe. "Many Americans think Chile is unstable, that it is unsafe, but Chile has a stable economy, the laws are respected, we have a democracy and the crime rate is very low, especially robbery and violent crimes," he says.

LAN Airlines, formerly LanChile, is Chile's main carrier. It is based in Santiago, Chile's capital, and is the largest airline in South America, with flights to many cities in Latin America, North America, Mexico, the Caribbean, Oceania and Europe. In the U.S., LAN Airlines operates flights to and from MiamiInternationalAirport, from which it is about an eight-hour flight to Santiago.

U.S. tour operators that sell Chile include: Trafalgar, Globus and Tauck.

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