Sunday, March 7, 2010

‘Not All of Chile Is Like The Images In The Media’

Friday, 05 March 2010 04:36

Tourism industry tries to ease fears, as future trips to Chile are cancelled
President Michelle Bachelet and President-elect Sebastian Piñera both acknowledged Saturdays’ earthquake would have serious ramifications for the country’s economy and employment.

Photo by flashray
While immediate effects of the earthquake are still being measured — an estimated 800 were killed and more than 1 million are now homeless, many are only now receiving food, water and supplies — Chile has started to evaluate the effects the quake will have on different economic sectors.
The Wall Street Journal reported the Chilean stock market index opened 2.5 percent lower Monday and saw losses through Wednesday. Thursday saw the first gains since the earthquake hit, although there is expected to be much volatility in the coming days.

Despite fears of serious losses to one of Chile’s growing export sector, wine, the industry’s promotion agency, Wines of Chile, said the impact of Saturday’s 8.8-magnitude earthquake was “limited” and expects producers will meet export commitments without major problems.

After days evaluating affected wineries, they determined the total loss at 125 million liters, valued at approximately US$250 million. The losses including aging, bottled and bulk wine, and represent 12.5 percent of the 1.01 billion liters produced in 2009.

Wines of Chile president Rene Merrino reported infrastructure damage varied among wineries and is still being evaluated, but vineyards were largely unaffected. The harvest is just beginning and Merrino does not expect volumes to be affected by the earthquake.

In contrast, the tourism industry has been hit hard. Bringing in nearly US$10 billion in 2009, tourism represents about 3.5 percent of Chile’s GDP. Many countries – including the United States - have issued travel alerts for the whole of Chile, advising nationals to avoid any unessential travel in the country.

Cancellations have become the norm for many hostels and tour operators, even in largely unaffected areas like Santiago, and the country’s northern and far southern regions. Santiago tour operators Bicicleta Verde (ST, Mar.3) say they have had cancellations from people currently in the country as well as those cancelling future trips to Chile.

Tour operators, hostel owners and officials from the government tourism office SERNATUR met Thursday to discuss the impact on the industry and define strategies to move forward. Cybertour General Director Francisco Leal attended the meeting and told the Santiago Times it was important to get people from all sides of the industry up-to-speed.

“It’s important to get the message out that not all of Chile is like the images shown in the media,” said Leal. “Santiago is still open for business, the north and far south that have little or no impact.”

ACHET (Asociación Chilena de Empresas de Turismo, A.G) is planning another meeting at SERNATUR offices which will include even more industry leaders to create a consolidated plan of action, Leal says. SERNATUR has created an emergency committee to deal with the serious blow to one of Chile’s booming industries.

By Pamela Morales ( editor@santiagotimes.cl This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

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