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Breaking Travel News interview: Argentina minister of tourism, Gustavo Santos

President Macri and his team gather to present the new document

The president of Argentina, Mauricio Macri, and the minister of tourism, Gustavo Santos, have presented the Tourism National Plan for the next four years.

The plan foresees to increase up to 50 per cent the arrival of international tourists to Argentina until 2020, reaching nine millions of foreign tourists a year.

Here Breaking Travel News sits down with Santos to see how Argentina intends to bring this vision to life.

Breaking Travel News: Argentina has just unveiled a new Tourism National Plan, covering the next four years. Can you tell us a little about this ambitious initiative?

Gustavo Santos: With an ambitious proposal from the national ministry of tourism we project for Argentina the goal to reach up to nine million tourists for 2019.

Firstly, we look forward to achieve the recovery of Brazilian market, essential for our country.

After receiving more than 960,000 Brazilians in 2015, our goal is to reach over a million for 2019.

In the bordering countries we expect to close the year 2016 with more than 3.2 million tourists – a 6.8 per cent increase on 2015. This is part of a four year-challenge is to pass the 4.6 million mark.

This means an increase of more than 50 per cent on 2015.

In the same way, our goals are focused in the European markets and North America.

Regarding the first one - which includes Spain, Italy, France, Holland, Germany and UK – we are confident in passing from 700,000 in 2015 to more than 1.2 million for 2019.

Regarding North America, we wish to obtain increase of 100 per cent.

Around 335,000 tourists came in 2015 and for 2019 we estimate more than 650,000.

The rest of America and other international markets, including Oceania, China, India, and Russia, among others, have also been carefully studied.

We expect an increase of 80 to 150 per cent, respectively.

BTN: Can you tell me how much of a break with the past we can expect in the tourism sector following the appointment of Mauricio Macri as president of Argentina?

GS: We do not wish to engage in controversy, nor discuss politics from the past.

Our mission now is to participate of a new era for Argentina, besides the new president, Mauricio Macri.

We see possibilities for positive change.

In my case particularly, I have total freedom to position Argentina’s tourism in the highest place.

Specifically, I think Argentina is in a good place regarding tourism.

Of course we can do much more and that is where we are heading.

That is the reason why we have set ourselves this ambitious plan, so we can receive nine million tourists during the next four years.

We know is not going to be easy, but with the help of everyone that works in the sector, I’m sure we will make it.

Besides, the fact that Argentina has more visitors not only represents an economic benefit but also gives the country the capacity of being famous worldwide, to improve its services, and to generate more dialogue and cooperation.

The global result will be very important overall to our society.

We have the tools and elements needed, so we are overconfident it will happen.

BTN: You are hoping to welcome nine million international visitors per annum by 2020, an increase of 50 per cent on the current figures. Can you tell us how you hope to boost the numbers?

GS: We have an integral plan to achieve our goals.

Our commercial strategy will be divided as follows: 60 per cent priority markets, including Brazil, Spain, Italy, Mexico, Chile and Uruguay, and 30 per cent for strategic markets, including Germany, France, UK, Holland, Canada, Peru, Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia.

A the same time we will allocate ten per cent of our resources to potential markets – China, India, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Eastern Europe, Venezuela and Central America.

The segmentation of this strategy will be cover 40 per cent within the trade, 40 per cent for final consumers and 20 per cent will be dedicated to tourist loyalty management when they are in the country.

Next semester will be faced with different events and actions.

Cooperation tasks will be organised with Aerolíneas Argentinas, LATAM, Sky, Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways, Air New Zealand, Avianca, Alitalia, American Airlines, United Airlines, Copa Airlines, Air Europa, AeroMexico and Emirates.

With Brazil we also have some ongoing developments which, we believe, will blossom.

Soon will be launching a strong campaign in our country for the upcoming Olympics Games in Río de Janeiro.

The idea is to launch actions before, during and after the competition.

I would also like to highlight the actions we are doing In Brazil as well as the cooperation we have with CVC, Flytour and Agaxtur.

BTN: You have identified Brazil as a key market from which to attract inbound tourism. Does the recession there concern you in this regard?

GS: One always tries to see the horizon in a positive way.

I think Brazil is a country with great possibilities, with a friendly and working population which are always willing and open to everything.

Therefore, I believe, despite of the rough times they have to go through, the answer will be positive.

On the other hand, Argentina has a wide variety of touristic products.

One of them is the snow, which was always a great attraction to Brazilians.

If we make a good effort and generate the best possibilities for them to come, they will, I have no doubt.

Our job must be focused on stimulating the Brazilian tourist and the rest of the world, in opening the doors of our land to make them feel at home.

BTN: Breaking Travel News is based in London. Is the UK an important market for Argentina?

GS: Of course it is. England is a touristic market of great importance for our country.

In Argentina we have much appreciation for the English culture and it is such a pleasure to welcome them into our country.

Besides, UK has one of the main tourist issuing markets that travel outside Europe.

So, it is essential for us to capture and receive them the best way possible.

In Chubut province, located in Patagonia, the most austral region of Argentina, there are some towns which are like “little Welsh embassies”.

The city of Gaiman is an institution and testimony of the welsh immigration. In 1995 Lady Di came here and was very happy. Her memory is still present among villagers.

Trelew, Puerto Madryn and Trevelin, other towns from Chubut, also live and feel many English traditions.

In Santa Cruz there are also a large English traditional colony.

There are multiple reasons why we are more than happy to host.

In 2015 we welcomed almost 45,000 tourists from UK– the fifth largest European market – and we hope for 2019 to be many more.

Nothing stands on the way for both countries to have a friendly and thriving relationship.

We have everything to reach big goals in a jointly way.

BTN: How important is tourism to Argentina as a destination? Is it a growing sector of the economy?

GS: As well as tourism is an essential tool for the world, in Argentina this is no exception.

We know that, through its development, we can create employment, improve regional economies, train and organise population among other possibilities.

As I said before, Argentina is versatile and has infinite attributes to captivate the tourist.

From Patagonia, with its mysterious, magical and giant landscapes which look like real postcards, going through the peaceful and enchanting Cuyo, the mountains and rivers in Córdoba, Buenos Aires city with all its great cultural offers, Buenos Aires province, with its huge fields and elegant beaches, the nature from El Litoral to the North, with its colorful majesty and the villagers’ hospitality.

Today the touristic offer is all around the country.

In all regions we have good infrastructure – hotels, gastronomy and entertainment.

The Argentinean is very receptive and is always enthusiastically waiting the foreign arrival.

Our country has grown thanks to the immigrants which made possible our homeland, and that is something we do not forget.