Tourism And Technology In South America How To Overcome The Pandemic
My Career in Tourism so far…
I started working in Tourism three and a half years ago, in Santiago, Chile, as a salesman, then Marketing Manager and finally Regional Manager. In 2019 I got transferred to Salvador, Brazil.
Something that bothered me at the time was how the agencies relied on seasons to profit.
Even a consolidated agency over a decade in the market, would be ready for a 2 to 4 months season and then struggle the rest of 8 to 10 months to come.
So the small businesses dedicated to tourism started to break in the protests of 2019, the reason why I got transferred to Brazil in the first place.
A few things that I’ve learned in all these years
What I observed back then is what I think will save South American tourism after the Covid-19.
I remember when some friends told me back then when they visited me in Chile, that they would prefer a less commercial tour, and that this one looked like they are all put in a running machine, and the guides are just waiting for the new group to come.
That drove me crazy; I had no idea about what to do to change it, and it didn’t change in my time there;
The thought of “The more, the better” is consolidated in many touristic places, and that is what makes it hotter or not. More people visit a country, it gets cheaper, and cheaper is good, right?
Well, it’s a good thing that a place is now cheaper to visit, but it carries a problem that nobody is talking about: THIS GROWTH IS NOT ORGANIC.
…and what that mean?
More people are visiting a place, so more agencies are starting a business in there. More people are starting a business, so they hire more people to meet the demand. It’s a good thing, but with greater need, less trained people are available in the market.
So what new agencies do? Train more people for 2–4 months to come? No way, so they hire a trained guide and make him teach the MVP of the tours to unskilled people.
Let’s pretend this is not a harmful practice, and the low prices are not tied up to the quality drop. So everybody is happy, a new market is full of new entrepreneurs, and a vast clientele is glad to pay less.
What does it do to the market?
It dilutes the clientele, which is not a bad thing per se, but make all of them a bit weaker as a business, so they offer the same product to more tourists, for less. Therefore, his average ticket goes down. I know it, I saw it happening.
So the protests started in Chile, in a year that almost 40 new agencies opened, and that just in Santiago.
Long story short, they broke and carried a bunch of agencies with them.
That’s just life sometimes.
Then a pandemic disease comes. It’s not the protests anymore; what would be a difficult couple of months has become a year or so.
A high amount of agencies broke. And in Brazil, it’s no different. Being the World New Epicenter of COVID-19 will not help tourism to warm up.
What I saw, and shared now is: regular tourism is self-destructing. It contributes to 3.5% of the Chilean GDP and 8% of the Brazilian GDP (PIB or PNB for us Latinos).
So what solutions are there to watch?
Like many struggling businesses we see around, the most probable solution is already in construction, and without much noticing.
The word is Eco-Tourism
As I said about my friends wanting a less commercial experience, eco-tourism brings a new disruptive way to travel, including the flight, accommodation and, the tours.
The good news is that within the Eco-Tourism we have social entrepreneurship, which makes the population of these places profit along the way, unlike the regular tourism that employs a lot of unqualified people with a lower average income.
Most of them are outsiders without necessary knowledge in the culture, transforming this field in an unskilled, low-paid occupation that destroys the tourism and the local communities and environment.
According to Rutopia, a Mexican Startup, handcrafted tours with the locals will provide deep experience to its visitors, and tourism is all about that, am I right?
Another example that is a success in Chile is the Emiliana’s Organic Vineyard, which offers eco-tours to its customers.
So it’s possible to grow better in a country. I believe that by doing it, in scale, smarter, high-skilled, will bring social awareness and touristic interest that this moment we are living asks.
A more personalized experience might be High-Profile only, but the Low-Demand brought to us by COVID-19 will adjust it, gradually.
When I was the Regional Manager of this Agency, bunches of people would tell me how their ideas were so good for the future of tourism and would bring growth the sales.
That is the time then.
Growing slow with great solutions such as Bio/Eco-Tourism, centered both in the visitors and the locals’ communities, offers the most viable way to get back on track when this nightmare’s over.
But I do not own the monopoly of the truth, so, what do you think it will help the Tourism in South America and in the World to overcome the pandemic?
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