PHOTO: Chile is now expected to attract 5.6 million international visitors in 2016. (Photo by Brian Major)
Based on its first-half 2016 tourist arrivals data, Chile will easily reach the lofty levels targeted by tourism officials following a record 2015. A total of 2,837,315 travelers visited the South American country in the first six months of 2016, a robust 28 percent increase over the same period last year, according to tourism ministry officials.
The surging arrivals have accelerated Chile’s tourism growth to unexpected levels. Officials now anticipate reaching 5.6 million international visitors by the end of 2016 after saying earlier this year they hoped the destination would reach five million annual visitors by 2020.
Chile recorded 4.4 million international visitors in 2015, meaning arrivals are expected to increase by 25 percent this year. “The value of the dollar in Chile for those coming from stronger economies boosts the arrival of tourists,” said Luis Felipe Céspedes, Chile’s minister of the economy.
Felipe Céspedes also identified increase airline access to Chile and significant international marketing of the destination as responsible for the strong arrival figures. Arrivals from the United States account for 25 percent of Chile’s first-half 2016 arrivals and increased by 18 percent over 2015 to 107,265 travelers.
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According to a September report from travel research firm STR, Chile is one of five Latin American destinations with more than 1,000 hotel rooms under construction, with seven properties in the pipeline accounting for 1,016 rooms.
The growing popularity of one of Chile’s signature attractions has led the government to announce a new visitor-management system at Torres del Paine National Park.
Under new National Forestry Corporation (Conaf) rules, visitors must now register for overnight stays at the Italiano, Torres and Paso campsites in the popular national park. Reservations for the campsites can be made for just one night in each site and are not transferable, thus reservations must be linked to a single person’s name and may only be secured for just one or two people.
Campsites will be available to visitors beginning Oct. 15. The management system is designed to enhance the quality of the visitor experience and protect natural and cultural resources in areas close to the trails. “Last season, we received 220,000 people. The number of visitors increased exponentially, which is why we have to limit access,” said María Elisabeth Muñoz, Conaf’s director in Magallanes and the Chilean Antarctic.
“This is a measure that will respect Torres del Paine National Park’s capacity and help to take care of it,” said Debbie Feldman, general manager of Turismo Chile, the country’s tourist board. “It’s a destination that continues to be one of the most highlighted attractions in Chile.”