Tourism in South America is expected to recover by 2024

A study by GlobalData found that international travel to South America fell from 35 million visitors in 2019 to just 3.3 million in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning the region lost approximately $49.2 billion* in tourism spending over the two years.

The leading data and analytics firm notes that after those disastrous few years, 2022 has seen a rather sudden return of international visitors, and the region is expected to recover somewhat more of the levels it reached in 2019 by 2024. .

GlobalData’s latest report, “South America Destination Tourism Insight Report, 2022 Update”, reveals that international tourism will recover to 35.5 million visitors by 2024, with tourism expected to bring in $32.9 billion in the same year . While COVID-19 restrictions have now been largely removed or relaxed, the country still faces significant obstacles in the form of unstable political climates, a lack of destination marketing, accessibility and affordable air connectivity.

Hannah Free, travel and tourism analyst at GlobalData, comments: “South America has seen huge changes in visitor numbers in 2022, with the region already showing clear signs of recovery. The effect has been particularly large in this region, as it has generally been slower to remove travel restrictions than countries in the Middle East and Europe. Hotels, airports and tourist destinations may struggle to cope with the sudden influx of demand, as seen in parts of Europe.

Despite the persistence of COVID-19 restrictions in 2021, Colombia experienced a growth in the number of international tourists, partly thanks to the Disney movie Encanto, which highlighted the natural and cultural assets of the country. International arrivals to Colombia grew 11% year-on-year (YoY), overtaking Brazil and Argentina to become the most visited South American destination in 2021.

Meanwhile, Guyana was the only other South American country to see growth in international arrivals in 2021, with tourist numbers up 16.4% year-on-year. Guyana’s geographic location, coupled with its historic connection to the Caribbean, makes it an ideal location for cruise, beach, adventure, cultural and nature tourism. However, Guyana’s tourism potential is hampered by a weak brand identity, inconsistent marketing and promotional investments, and the relatively low quality of connectivity with the country, which means flights are often expensive.

Free adds: “South America’s regional tourism performance is also hampered by poor infrastructure. International arrivals to South America are disproportionately low due to underdeveloped air transport infrastructure, as well as a lack of low-cost airline options, which negatively affects accessibility. However, GlobalData’s construction projects database shows that there are 59 airport infrastructure projects underway in South America, which will be key to facilitating tourism growth.

* This figure is based on an assumption that 2020 and 2021 inbound tourism figures would be the same as 2019 levels. $11.7 billion was then removed to account for inbound spend actually earned in 2020 and 2021

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