In March 2015, Expedia announced a $270 million investment to acquire a minority stake in Latin America’s largest online travel agency, Decol.com. This is all part of a wider tourism boom, with Latin America grabbing the attention of the global travel sector, especially when it comes to tech and online.
The most recent UN World Tourism report predicts that Latin American international arrivals will grow at 4.4% per year, twice the rate of developed economies. Leading the way are Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, but Uruguay, Bolivia and Venezuela are starting to catch up.
As Travel Weekly explains, Ecuador's growth is largely due to the Galapagos Islands. Peru, alternatively, boasts Machu Picchu: the world-famous archeological site that was included in the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.
With 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Bolivia will also be a major player in the new tourism landscape.
Why is tourism booming in Latin America?
> Local prosperity
A major part of Latin America's tourism boom is travel that begins and ends in the region, with this accounting for 80% of all journeys.
The Pacific Alliance trade bloc (Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Peru) has lifted visa requirements for member citizens: a leading reason why internal travel has become easier. These economies are also always enjoying sustainable economic growth, which further encourages travel.
> Better infrastructure
It's easier than ever to travel to or across Latin America. Over the last 8 years, Ecuador has invested heavily in improvements to roads, making the country more accessible (particularly from neighbouring Colombia or Peru) and journey times faster.
Other countries are now following suit, with Peru and Colombia unleashing billion-dollar investment programmes to improve travel links.
> Improved global image
The world is now seeing Latin America as it wants to be seen: a part of the world rich in culture, heritage, and breathtaking landscapes. Earlier in 2015, Ecuador became the first country to advertise during the Super Bowl (for a grand $3.8 million).
How can tour operators take advantage of the tourism boom?
> Heritage sites are your selling point
Take advantage of the historical and cultural heritage of Latin American in planning and marketing your tours.
Think of your experience, location, and any unique knowledge you have to offer.
> Get online and invest in web technology
It goes without saying that's it worth taking advantage of the power of web technology.
If you want to appeal to your clients (especially milennials), it's crucial that your business provides a good online experience and has a social media presence.
- Get your business a well-designed, persuasive website
- Let your customers save time with an online booking engine
- Use social media to promote word-of-mouth online. Brazil is second only to the US in social media usage, described by the Wall Street Journal as "the social media capital of the universe" in 2013.
- Use search engine optimization to make sure your website is found.
> Make sure your company is in the midst of the tourism action
Is your tour or activity company active in the touristic centre of your country?
By ensuring you're accessible to tourists, investors, and partners, you will not only meet new people, it's likely you will also be exposed to new opportunities.
> Build partnerships
Think about your potential to collaborate with your local tourism board, government, or other touristic companies (including hotels and restaurants).
If you want to work with other local tour operators, TrekkSoft's Partner Network can facilitate this and up your revenue.
> Keep tabs on where investment is happening
It's worth keeping up-to-date on where your country, local government, and tourism board are spending money.
If there are improvements to heritage sites, this may give your walking tours a boost. If there are more restaurants starting up, it might be a good time to set-up a new food tour.
Think about whether investment can positively effect your business: more than likely, it can.
Want to see the impact that online booking software can have on your tour or activity company?
Written by Lucy Fuggle
Lucy is Head of Content Marketing at TrekkSoft. She tries to read a book a week, travel solo every month, and share ideas on lucyfuggle.com. You can usually find her in Switzerland's Berner Oberland.