In Chile, tourism outperforms wine exports

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Chilean President Michelle Bachelet (foreground) at the Adventure Travel World Summit.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet (foreground) at the Adventure Travel World Summit. Photo Credit: Arnie Weissmann

PUERTO VARAS, Chile — Chile’s tourism grew 20% year-over-year in the first half of 2015, growing faster and with higher gross receipts than exported wine.

And the country’s president, Michelle Bachelet, wants to keep the momentum going.

She told delegates attending the Adventure Travel Trade Association's Adventure Travel World Summit that a national plan supporting sustainable tourism is budgeted to spend $100 million between now and 2018 to develop new areas of the country, “strengthen human capital” by teaching English and Portuguese to tourism workers, and promote Chile internationally.

In 2014, nearly 3.7 million visitors pumped $2.7 billion into the economy, Bachelet said.

She added that more than 200 people had been training local tourism workers to prepare for the 700 attendees of the Adventure World Travel Summit.

Her government is making the protection of some natural areas, and development of others, a priority, Bachelet said.

And an additional $17 million has been designated to develop 132 miles of trails, 21 miles of bicycle paths and campgrounds in national parks.

After her speech, Bachelet spoke with Travel Weekly about current travel-related legislative initiatives. She is currently negotiating with the mining industry on the topic of permitting exploitation of resources along some of the country’s 20,000 glaciers. “We’re having a discussion to decide which ones we’re going to protect. It will be the majority of them,” she said.

Bachelet, who is 18 months into her second four-year nonconsecutive term as president, said that her first administration had passed wide-ranging legislation that gave incentives to develop the country’s tourism industry, “but we need to update it,” she said. “We need to see what worked and what needs to be changed.”

She also said that current labor laws may need to be amended to allow hotel staff to work longer hours. “It’s not like an 8 to 5 job,” she said. “We need to respect the workers’ rights, but we need to adapt. Hotels do not work on timetables."

Business and government work well together on matters related to tourism, she said. “But they have to adapt, and so do we.”

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