Buenos Aires, with record number of foreign tourists: 3 million will arrive

That’s the figure planned for the end of the year. The multiple cultural and gastronomic proposals, and the improvement in air connectivity and devaluation are the main keys to the phenomenon.

As it happens in other big cities of the world, in Buenos Aires the tourism is positioned as a great economic dynamizer; even when the country suffers to other levels the consequences of the crisis. To such an extent that tourism represents 3% of the economy – with 3 billion dollars – and 23% of exports. It so happens that the City received 1,465,025 foreign visitors only during the first half of the year. The best performance in seven years. With these numbers, the Government of Buenos Aires projects that, by the end of 2019, 3 million tourists will have arrived in Buenos Aires.

Photo: Sasha Stories
Photo: Sasha Stories

There are many factors that influence, and the cultural and gastronomic offer, plus the improvement in the air connectivity, are highlighted among the preponderant ones. The economy also plays a role. Because the devaluation lowered the cost for those who come with euros or dollars. Just to give an example: dining in one of the most valued restaurants in the world -recently awarded in an international ranking- can cost around U$S 100. Expensive for an Argentinean, but not so much for an American.

All the proposals for you to organize your weekend.

“Gastronomy is fundamental for tourism in the City: travelers often choose a destination for its cuisine. Buenos Aires has a wide range and high quality. Our gastronomy combines Creole and European traditions, and in the last time it added the influence of the best of Latin American cuisine”, evaluates Gonzalo Robredo, president of the Ente de Turismo de Buenos Aires.

Foreign tourists in Buenos Aires

According to official statistics, in this first semester, tourist spending amounted to $34.89 billion pesos, 25% more than in 2018. On average, foreign tourists spend U$S 900 in their stay.

Where do they come from? Most come from Brazil and the rest from America. And in the first half of this year the number of Chilean arrivals increased by 28%, while the European market grew by 13%.

Beyond the cultural offerings – commercial and off theaters, heritage circuits, and cultural centers and museums – the City offers some options as picturesque as in the world’s major urban centers. An example is Palermo. There you can see what happens on any given day during the week starting at noon: thousands of people strolling, eating outdoors, shopping and taking advantage of the street art circuit, with some murals painted by renowned street artists.

“I must confess that it is very difficult for me to move from Palermo. This is my third time in Buenos Aires. The first time I came alone, the second with friends and now, again alone. A week in Buenos Aires and another one traveling to other places. This year I’m going to the South. What I like about this neighborhood is that it concentrates everything, even small art galleries that interest me a lot. On this trip I promised to visit the Colon Theater and the San Telmo antiques fair,” said Maureen, who traveled from Chicago.

For the promotion of tourism in the City, technologies provide solutions and help to understand what the tourists who come to the City are looking for. For example, the big data system that receives and intercrosses 820 million records from multiple sources: the Indec International Tourism Survey, arrivals and departures from Ezeiza or Aeroparque, hotel occupancy, or traces left when searching for information or making air reservations through digital platforms, the use of map applications or public transportation, and especially the roaming of telephones, among other sources.

Thus it is known that Brazilians walk through Florida and Caminito, and stay in Retiro and downtown hotels. They arrive in the city on cruise ships and for important football matches. Of the Americans, it is known that they prefer Palermo, that they walk and have lunch in the vicinity of the Armenian and Serrano squares, and that they also take advantage of the nightlife. What is the point of having this information? To draw up public policies that allow us to continue attracting tourists.

Such as the hotel promotion law, which encourages establishments to do modernization works in exchange for tax credits. In networks, the general complaint is that four-star hotels seem to be stopped in time. And the private sector can also access this information.

Another option highly valued by tourists – and neighbors, especially on weekends – is the Tourist Bus. It started with a lot of criticism, ten years ago, and won a place.

The company that has been operating since 2008 will be joined by one more after a bidding process. Both will begin the new management between mid-December and mid-January and will add more modern features, such as wifi on board and virtual stops and tickets.

This will modernize the units and incorporate a charging system for the cell phone, wifi and QR code for the tickets.

Another issue of incidence in Buenos Aires and in all the cities of the world, is the irruption of Airbnb, the app that facilitates the rent of housings for tourism. In some places it has had resistance and many complaints from traditional hoteliers. Here, the Buenos Aires Legislature will deal with a bill that will seek to regulate its use. For example, a register of “hosts” will be created and the consortium will have to authorize this type of use in the departments. It is also necessary to establish “the identity and register information of each guest accommodated, as well as the period of accommodation”.

Consortium permission and registration of hosts: how is the project to regulate rents through apps such as Airbnb?

In this sense, neighbourhoods have become a source of attraction. Tourists are not concentrated only in the center, San Telmo or Recoleta. “We are convinced that tourism dynamizes the economies of the neighborhoods. It is one of the activities with the greatest capacity to generate direct or indirect employment, which is why we encourage tourism to reach the neighborhoods,” said Fernando Straface, general secretary and secretary of international relations. The program is known as “Tourism in Neighborhoods,” not only to learn about the classic attractions, such as a museum, squares or traditional bars, but to stay. In general, there are almost no hotels in the neighborhoods, but temporary rental apps have generated a new attraction among tourists.

Another option that is growing in Buenos Aires is the so-called “academic tourism”: in 2017, the City received 80,000 students who left more than $10 billion. The figure includes some $9,902.8 million spent by international students on housing, university fees, transportation and leisure. Buenos Aires is considered by the QS Best Student Cities Ranking as the best in Latin America to study. “By 2023 we will seek to attract 120,000 international students, with a focus on short and postgraduate programs,” said Fernando Straface, Secretary General of the City Government.

Hotel investment to add places

So far this year, Buenos Aires hotels have invested more than 1,000 million pesos in extensions and spare parts to increase accommodation capacity. These projects were carried out within the framework of the fiscal incentives program launched by the Government of Buenos Aires to increase the number of available beds in a context of international tourism growth.

The plan was launched at the beginning of the year, after the Buenos Aires Legislature approved it by law. It is a scheme of discounts on Gross Income for ten years: if the company invests in a new establishment the tax deduction is 10%, with an additional 2% or 5% depending on the area of the City where it is built. On the other hand, if it is a spare part, the reduction is 40%, with an additional 10% if it is an SME, and another 10% if the hotel is in a Historic Protection Area.

According to information provided by the Government of Buenos Aires, 36 reform and expansion projects have already been launched, plus another to build a hostel. In total, they pledged $1.04 billion.

Martín Mura, Minister of Economy and Finance of the City, assured that “through this initiative we continue generating investment opportunities in the City and positioning it as an attractive business place in the region”.

Author: Clarin