Foreign tourism edges up
for the Herald
Marks the first increase of the year for sector that dropped 1.4% in the quarter
Despite a spike last month, 1.42 percent fewer foreigners visited Argentina during the first quarter of the year, while 4.18 percent fewer Argentines travelled abroad, with both groups spending less overall, a report by the INDEC national statistics bureau published yesterday revealed.
But the 3.8 percent increase posted for March, when compared to the same month of 2013 pointed to relative recovery for the troublesome tourist sector, which has strained the Central Bank’s reserves for the last few years.
The overall inter-annual quarterly fluctuations left a smaller deficit of US$327.436 million for the sector when compared to the same three months of the year, dropping from US$985.770 million, largely due to decreased activity.
INDEC did not provide accumulated data at all four main points of tourist entry to the country for March, publishing figures corresponding to the Buenos Aires City Metropolitan and Ezeiza Airports, which showed growth.
For the quarter though, visitors to Argentina, taking into account arrivals at the Buenos Aires City Metropolitan Airport, Ezeiza Airport, Córdoba City Airport and the port of Buenos Aires — the chief points of entry to the country for tourism — clocked in at 683,875, down from 693,853 during the same quarter last year.
More significantly, at US$719,067,301, the foreign currency they coughed up during their stay weighed in at 2.57 percent below the level registered in the same quarter of 2013.
Although the inter-annual quarterly variation was slight and recovery was seen last month, the 1.4 percent decrease to the influx of tourists remains a concern, although, coming at the height of the harvest season, is perhaps less pressing a problem at another time of the year.
Tourists stayed in the country an average 12.6 nights, spending an average US$64.33 per day, down from an average 14.7 nights and US$72.9 last quarter, respectively.
Alejandro Domínguez, a travel agent at the Retiro branch of the Tangol agency, told the Herald that operators are seeing a “huge number of foreign clients” coming to the country, pointing to the newfound exchange rate stability and devaluation of the peso after January as part of the reason for the spike upward seen in March.
People are still “mainly going to Florida street to get more pesos on the black market,” he told the Herald, highlighting the seemingly perennial problem of drawing currency into the formal circuit.
“There are seven agents at this branch, and we’re up to our necks with foreign clients, in descending order from Brazil and Colombia from the region, and Germany, the US, Canada and Russia,” he concluded.
According to INDEC, the largest share of the Argentine pie was tasted by Brazilians, who made up 26.3 percent of the total visitors to the country in March, followed by Europeans, at 25.8, Latin Americans, at 17.9 percent, the US and Canada, at 13.6 percent and Chile, at nine percent.
Uruguayans, who made up only 2.2 percent of the total tourist market, nonetheless made up more than 42,300 of the total 48,772 who arrived at the Buenos Aires port.
Although they stayed the shortest amount of time, visitors from the neighbouring country spent the highest amount of dollars per day at US$147.7
March’s figures only reflect the influx of foreigners at the capital’s Metropolitan and Ezeiza airports, but the 3.8 percent hike from 206,448 to 222,917 passengers is still noteworthy following a 1.9 and 2.4 percent drop in January and February, respectively.
Tourists coming to Argentina spent 1.8 percent more than in March last year, or US$246,700,204. That compares to the US$297.9 million exchanged by locals who left via the two Buenos Aires airports.
Despite the relative recovery, the final result was thus still negative, with a US$51.2 million deficit posted for the month. Moreover, more Argentines have left the country for tourism than foreigners arriving in the country for the last 11 out of 15 months.
“The four percent is not that significant of a number,” Avantrip travel agency’s head of marketing and communication, Sofía Rodríguez, told the Herald, adding the “last few months have been volatile.”
Argentina “has become an expensive country on top of an exotic one, and alternatives in Peru have become cheaper,” Rodríguez continued.
She also warned that levels of receptive tourism waned again for the company in April, but noted that the drops seen in January and February respond to a low-season for the industry.
Rodríguez concluded that many locals are travelling abroad because they consider it cheaper than Argentine destinations.
In March, 5.8 percent fewer Argentines travelling abroad spent an average 4.7 percent more per day, or a daily US$87 for a total of US$916,415,199.
In January, total Argentine spending abroad spent 21.1 percent more, in February 14.6 percent more and in March 2.2 percent less.
The outflow of dollars due to the tourism sector reached US$10.3 billion last year, almost double what was posted for 2012 — the second most deficient industry for the government after energy — leading to the 30-percent drop in the Central Bank’s reserves last year.