Santiago, Jul 1 (EFE).- Chile’s 2021 ski season got under way Thursday with at least 12 of the country’s 19 resorts planning to operate, albeit with Covid-19 protocols and admission limits in place.
The sector normally generates some $200 million a year, representing 10 percent of Chilean tourism revenues.
Returning to normal will be “very difficult,” the head of the Aceski industry association, Francisco Sotomayor, acknowledged, but it may be possible to “reverse the decline” of 2020, when activity plummeted 91 percent.
“We expect between 600,000 and 700,000 visits, instead of the million we had in 2019. People are anxious to get out of the house after the quarantines,” he told Efe.
Chile saw the heaviest snowfall in decades last year, but the pandemic forced the ski resorts to remain shuttered for half of the Southern Hemisphere winter and operators lost more than $100 million.
“To be able to have a little more freedom and be able to come ski is great for our mental health, especially for the children,” Jesus Contreras told Efe at the Valle Nevado resort outside Santiago.
Valle Nevado will start with 1,500 visitors per day and gradually increase admissions to 30 percent of its capacity.
“We are very enthusiastic, we have had a very good opening and we expect people, who are now more accustomed to the restrictions, will come to enjoy the fresh air,” Valle Nevado marketing manager Dominique Rudloff said.
The industry’s main challenge will be compensating for the lack of international tourists, who make up 40 percent of visitors to ski resorts in a typical year.
Under the pressures of the pandemic, Chile has tightened its borders, provoking a 92.6 percent decline in revenue from international tourism in the first five months of this year, according to official figures. EFE pnm/dr