By Lorenzo Castro E.
Miami, Apr 27 (EFE).- The ports of South America are “being reborn” after the heavy blow dealt them by the Covid-19 pandemic and are establishing themselves as the “great reserve” of “experiential” and authentic cruise ship tourism based on traditional cultures, natural and open landscapes, that is to say just the opposite of the pandemic lockdown.
With that in mind, many governments’ tourism promotion offices throughout the region are attending the Seatrade Cruise Global cruise tourism fair in Miami Beach this week, one of the largest conventions of its kind.
“Today, it’s time to breathe deeply and enjoy what’s to be seen. It’s time for Punta del Este,” Uruguay’s deputy minister of tourism, Remo Monzeglio, told EFE in front of the pavilion set up by the small South American country that now has the coastal resort city of Punta del Este as one of its main tourism offerings although he added that in years past it was a refuge for thinkers and intellectuals.
Monzeglio emphasized that after two years of “zero tourism” due to the worldwide health emergency, travelers today are looking for open, natural spaces and for the “authenticity” of local peoples.
“I think that South America is the great reserve of tourism,” he said, adding that the port of Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, already has had 143 requests from cruise ships to dock there this year.
Many of the travelers who will travel on those vessels have paid for their journeys not only because of the many things to enjoy on board ship but mainly because of what’s on offer onshore, with tourism being a vitally important industry for local economies, as Chile’s under-secretary for tourism, Veronica Kunze Neubauer, told EFE.
She noted that before the pandemic, this sector had been moving along a “route to growth” with about 300,000 cruise travelers and 275 vessels visiting Chile each year, figures that were drastically reduced after the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020.
Now, however, with 90 percent of its population vaccinated against the coronavirus and special destinations such as Antarctica available, Chile is hoping to get back to 75 percent of its pre-pandemic tourist arrival numbers.
“The Antarctic market is one that was growing in recent years,” Ariel Dean, the manager for communications, institutional and international affairs with Argentina’s General Ports Administration, told EFE.
Dean said that Antarctica attracts a “particular segment” of travelers and that market is growing.
The city of Ushuaia, in Argentina’s Tierra de Fuego province, is “the best positioned and with the best infrastructure in the South Atlantic” for receiving cruise ships heading for the White Continent, he said.
Dean added that more than 500 cruise ship dockings have been scheduled for next year at the port of Ushuaia, many of them involving Antarctic tourism and a higher figure than before the pandemic.
Kunze said that in Chile’s case, Antarctica is one of the cruise ship offerings that has been developing well this year, a situation that has benefited Puerto Williams and Punta Arenas, in Patagonia, both of which are points of entry to the frozen landmass at the bottom of the world.
“It’s a destination that is much desired, it’s rather specific and implies respect for biodiversity,” she said.
Many of the countries in the Americas that are attending the Seatrade Cruise Global fair are emphasizing at their kiosks and pavilions the cultural traditions and gastronomic fare available to cruise travelers in their cities and territories, for instance along the enological routes in Chile or Argentina’s architectural heritage “Buenos Aires is cultural tourism, it’s one of the greatest cities in the region,” said Dean.
The so-called coffee and banana routes, as well as the mangrove swamps of Pozuelo, are attractions that are also being promoted at the fair by Mexico’s Puerto Chiapas, as Emir Nuñez Cantoral, the director of information and statistics with the Tourism Secretariat in the far southern Mexican state of Chiapas, told EFE.
Countries like Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic are also highlighting their traditional culture and history to attract cruise ship visitors, who – although South American destinations are growing in popularity – still have the Caribbean as their main travel target.