Ready for the Chinese

Argentina has made it easier for Chinese travellers to visit as it steps up destination marketing in the business events sector.

Iguazu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina

In 2017, Argentina welcomed almost 60,000 visitors from China, an increase of 13 per cent from 2016. Of the 60,000 visitors, 35 per cent were on corporate incentive programmes or attending business events.

That is why Destination Argentina, fronted by the National Institute of Tourism Promotion, Argentina (INPROTUR), returned to IT&CM China 2018 this year for the second time, determined to attract more Chinese citizens to its faraway shores. And this year, INPROTUR was not at the tradeshow alone, having brought along its national carrier and the Buenos Aires Tourist Board.

Iguazu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina

Emora Franco, MICE coordinator, Instituto Nacional de Promocion Turistica, told TTGmice: “I think that the Chinese market holds a lot of potential for Argentina. Bear in mind we are faraway, but we are an exciting destination and can offer unique experiences to the Chinese.”

Buenos Aires Tourist Board’s MICE manager, general direction of tourism promotion, Constanza Ibarra, agreed: “I find a lot of interest coming from the Chinese, especially through the meetings I’ve had at IT&CM China. People come with the basic information and have an idea of where we are located. But usually, they would need more in-depth information about the activities that can be had, how many days is a typical trip, and what programmes can be done.”

Franco shared that Chinese incentive groups spend at least a week in Argentina, visiting destinations such as Buenos Aires and Ushuaia – from where cruises to Antartica are boarded. Natural attractions such as the glaciers in El Calafate, Iguazu Falls, and Patagonia are also on their must-see list.

To raise awareness of the South American destination, INPROTUR participates in tradeshows in Beijing and Shanghai, as well as hold roadshows in various Chinese cities. The consulate in China is also active, and organises in-house seminars and trainings for travel agents.

“Currently, tier-one cities (like Beijing and Shanghai) are our primary targets. When it progresses, then we will look at other cities such as Guangzhou and provinces such as Sichuan,” Franco said.

While she found IT&CM China a “productive experience” because of the number of meetings she has had, she acknowledged that destination marketing is a “long-term investment” as there will not be an immediate increase in Chinese corporate groups travelling to Argentina. Instead, she is optimistic that fruits of her labour will come to bear in the next few years or so.

“In five years’ time I hope to get a 20 per cent increase (in group numbers) from China,” she remarked.

Obstacles in Destination Argentina’s way at present are the lack of direct flights from China and the lack of Chinese-speaking tourist guides in the country.

There are currently no direct flights from China to Argentina, noted Tony Xia, Aerolineas Argentinas’ China GSA’s sales manager. And there might not be any in the foreseeable future, he opined.

“(Despite this), there are many ways to enter Argentina, from both the US and Europe. The most popular route for Chinese incentive groups is through Miami or New York, while the second favoured route is through Dubai,” Xia shared.

Chinese citizens require a visa to enter Argentina, but if they already hold an existing visa to the US or Europe they will only need to complete an Electronic Travel Authorization online.

Ibarra also pointed out that there was a lack of Chinese-speaking tourist guides in Argentina. As such, the government has signed an agreement with the local chamber of tourism and representatives of local Chinese communities to train young Chinese Argentines in tourism.

“Students can take a three- to four-month-long course in tourism, before they decide if they want to go further and embark on the five-year-long tourism degree.

“We need more Chinese-speaking guides, (and overall we must get) more people involved in tourism. We are encouraging young Chinese Argentina-born citizens to get involved in the tourism industry, as more Chinese-speaking staff in hotels and travel agencies are needed,” Ibarra concluded.

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