QUITO, ECUADOR– Travel Agent is on location for the 32nd annual TravelMart Latin America, which officially kicked off Wednesday night. The opening ceremony’s biggest news came from a speech delivered by the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa Delgado, in which he told attendees that Ecuador has tripled its tourism budget from $7 million in 2007 to $23 million in 2008. He projects a whopping $37 million budget in 2009.
The show floor opened Thursday morning, and Travel Agent had the opportunity to speak to the creator of TravelMart Latin America, William H. Coleman, to find out just how impressive the turnout was. Coleman told us that the show had about 1,000 suppliers and buyers with about 8,000 appointments scheduled before the show started and more last-minute appointments expected to pad those numbers further. Coleman told us this was the fifth time Ecuador has hosted the event since its inception 32 years ago. Ecuador last hosted the event in 2003 and may host the event every five years from here on out, Coleman told us. The host destination must wait five years after it hosts a TravelMart in order to host another one. Coleman said he is looking into naming Ecuador the host in 2013.
For the time being, however, Patagonia, Chile has been named the host for 2009. Coleman told us there is a laundry list of qualifications a destination must meet before it is named the host for TravelMart. Among the most important are adequate air life, sufficient ground transportation and, most importantly, some sign that the country is serious about tourism growth— whether that be a new airport, new developments or new attractions. “We always want to showcase the major destinations in Latin America like Peru or Ecuador, but we also want to plug in some smaller destinations like Patagonia,” he said. “That’s what TravelMart is all about. We want to showcase the best destinations and introduce the industry to the new ones, the up-and-coming ones.”