|With the opening of the fourth international airport, Ecuador is more accessible than ever.|
The historic merger of two major Latin American airlines, LAN and TAM, was approved last month, resulting in a shuffle of flights to Latin America. Some routes and schedules are expected to be reduced while others currently serviced by either carrier will likely not be affected.
Brazil’s anti-trust authorities said in December that they gave the stamp of approval for a merger, first proposed in 2010, between the Brazilian airline TAM and Chile’s LAN. The new airline, LATAM, is valued at about $14.5 billion and will represent 6 percent of global air transport. Last year, TAM and LAN flew more than 45 million passengers and 754,777 tons of cargo. The combined airline would fly to 115 destinations in 23 countries, with a 40,000-strong workforce.
Chile’s anti-trust authorities had already approved the merger but had set 11 conditions, including fewer flights to the Peruvian capital, Lima. Brazil’s body also set some conditions, including a reduction in the number of flights between Sao Paulo and Santiago and that the two airlines join a single international body.
TAM is a member of Star Alliance, which includes BMI, Lufthansa, SAS and Air China. LAN, on the other hand, is a member of the Oneworld airline alliance, which includes Iberia, British Airways, Qantas and JAL. The airlines have not yet revealed which one LATAM will join.
Although the new route schedule is still being determined, Travel Agent expects certain LAN/TAM staples to remain. Just in case you’re in need of some destination refreshers, here are some selling points for the destinations we still expect LATAM to service.
Brazil: Looking for something new? Florianopolis, the capital of the state of Santa Catarina, is one of the hottest places in Brazil right now for a luxury outing. Among the main luxury hotels in Florianopolis are Costão do Santinho; Il Campanario Villaggio Resort; Sofitel Florianopolis and Majestic Palace.
In 2011, Travel Agent did considerable reporting on the emerging nightlife town of Buzios. The Cachoeira Inn is building a reputation as perhaps Buzios’ finest hotel. The three-story property completed a five-year renovation project costing $2 million in 2008. Another popular option is the all-inclusive Breezes Resort & Spa-Buzios.
Peru: In May, Libertador Hotels, Resorts & Spas opened the first Westin in South America—The Westin Lima Hotel & Convention Center. With 301 rooms, the 30-floor hotel in San Isidro has the typical heavenly signature in every room. It has 21 suites, including the 3,261-square-foot Presidential Suite, and the largest convention center in the country with a capacity of up to 1,900 people.
On November 20, Atton Hotels opened its first property in Lima—the Atton San Isidro. This new hotel in San Isidro has 252 spacious guest rooms, free Internet access in rooms, outdoor swimming pool, sauna, Jacuzzi, restaurant, lobby bar and five fully equipped meeting rooms with a capacity of 208 people.
The 153-room JW Marriott Hotel Cusco will open this year with a customized design built around a colonial church and ancient Inca artifacts found on the site. The hotel will house a museum of prominent artifacts. Meanwhile, Orient-Express is opening its latest project in June: the Palacio Nazarenas, a 55-suite hotel in a former palace and convent in Cusco.
Ecuador: Ecuador today has more to offer and is more accessible than ever. Cotopaxi International Airport (ICAO) opened in March 2011. It was built in the town of Latacunga, in the heart of the Avenue of the Volcanoes, and is one and a half hours from Quito, the country’s capital. This is Ecuador’s fourth international airport, after the two in Quito and the one in the coastal city of Guayaquil.
Also, Ecuador now has its first eco-luxury tented camp with the opening of Galapagos Safari Camp. Set in the highlands of the Santa Cruz Islands, the camp’s nine spacious tents overlook the National Park.
|The Cachoeira Inn is emerging as one of Buzios, Brazil’s finest hotels.|
Meanwhile, Latin Trails, a tour operator specializing in South America, introduced a luxury yacht Galapagos Grand Odyssey earlier this year. The new 16-passenger yacht combines luxury, privacy and comfort for a unique experience.
Colombia: It was just about four years ago at TravelMart LatinAmerica in Cartagena when Travel Agent first gleaned that Medellín was set to follow in the footsteps of Bogota and Cartagena in becoming Colombia’s next big tourist destination. Medellín continues to add attractions and U.S.-branded hotels, slowly transforming its image, long associated with an infamous drug cartel, to that of a safe and viable vacation option.
Sonesta Hotels opened a 125-room hotel in the destination last year, joining other familiar names such as InterContinental, Four Points by Sheraton and Best Western. In June, Wyndham Hotel Group opened the 140-room, four-star TRYP Medellín. With events such as the annual Flower Fair in August, along with its revitalized infrastructure and booming nightlife, Medellín is solidifying its position as a promising destination for everyone looking to dance the night away.
Chile: Wine tourism in Chile has grown so much in the last few years that many privately owned wineries are joining in—by holding wine tours, offering accommodations in some cases and opening small restaurants in others. There are 188 wineries in Chile, of which 96 are devoted to tourism, 14 have restaurants and nine provide accommodations. Forty are found just outside of Santiago. Among the more notable valleys that produce wine in Chile are Casablanca, Maipo, San Antonio/Leyda, Cachapoal, Colchagua, Curico and Maule.
Argentina: In Buenos Aires, clients should check out the classic Alvear Palace Hotel, which is usually the go-to spot for presidents and other high-ranking officials. The hotel is splashed with French designs, from the carpet of the hallways to the oversized chandeliers in the rooms.
El Casco Art Hotel in Bariloche, on the other hand, is an adventure traveler’s dream. The highlight of this ultra-deluxe hotel is the view; it overlooks Lake Nahuel Huapi, which can be seen from every room in the property. Each of the 33 rooms and suites is named after and themed on a famous artist.