Socioeconomic turmoil across Latin America may not blunt the desire to travel, but trips will be better planned, shorter and less costly

Latin Americans still plan to travel this year, even if it is only on a domestic basis due to the socioeconomic turmoil that continues across the Latin American region, a new regional study has revealed. To overcome the heftier price tags to travel, the findings show that travellers are shortening their trips, lowering their travel expenses, and spending more time carefully planning when and where they will travel.

The ‘El Turismo Nacional – La Tendencia Mas Fuerte en Los Paises de Latinoamerica en 2019’ from global hotel and guest acquisition platform SiteMinder, provides the travel plans of more than a thousand surveyed travellers from Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Peru. In general it shows that respondents will continue to allocate part of their savings to travel despite the increased costs within the region.

“Our study shows that times of recession or uncertainty are not reasons for Latin American travellers to give up their travel plans. However, they do impact the planning habits of those travellers and the way they choose to spend their trips,” says Jason Lugo, regional manager – Latin America at SiteMinder.

Although inbound arrivals to the Latin American region remain steady, the vast majority of respondents say they will travel domestically rather than to the traditional international destinations of Europe or the United States of America.

“For hoteliers, this means a greater need than ever to understand and cater for travellers from within their own country, while also ensuring they are able to attract and service foreign tourists,” notes Mr Lugo.

Tourism continues to be a main source of income for Latin American nations and, locally, governments are developing programmes to maintain interest in the industry, not only among foreign visitors but local tourists. Infrastructure and budget facilities are also being improved to allow citizens of any socioeconomic status to travel.

The study was released to coincide with the annual Tianguis Turistico trade fair in Mexico, a nation where tourism represents 8.8% of gross domestic product (GDP). That contribution is expected to remain consistent in 2019 with almost half (48.3%) of travellers saying will travel domestically over the coming year. While only 11% of respondents from Mexico say they will visit Europe, just under a quarter (24.7%) plan to travel elsewhere in Latin America in spite of over two in five respondents (42%) believing inter-region costs are now higher than in previous years.

Mexico will also be impacted by the decision to cancel a proposed state-of-the-art major hub airport in its capital city in favour of a three-airport system that will deliver a “major commercial and technical” challenge, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and which leaves the industry in limbo.

With passenger traffic expected to grow by +3.6% annually over the next two decades and the current Benito Juárez Internacional airport already handling around 50% more passengers annually than its official design capability, a capacity crisis is looming.

Speaking on the sidelines of the recent CAPA – Centre for Aviation Americas Aviation Summit in Denver, USA, IATA’s regional vice president of the Americas Peter Cerda outlined some of the challenges airlines face as Mexico’s government adopts this policy of three airports – Benito Juárez Internacional, an expand Toluca airport and conversion of the Santa Lucia Airbase for civilian use – serving Mexico City.