LATAM e-News – Special Edition Argentina
Interview: Gonzalo Robredo
Executive Director, Ente de Turismo Buenos Aires
1- According to the information provided by InvestBA, the city of Buenos Aires is the entrance gate of 80% of tourism in Argentina. Why do you consider that today is one of the best moments to invest in hotel and tourism projects in the city?
The moment is now and for several reasons. After more than 5 years, international tourism in Buenos Aires is growing for the tenth consecutive month. This means that the growth trend of tourism in Buenos Aires is consolidated, boosted by the positive prospects offered by the region. In the national tourism segment news is also favorable: hotel occupancy rate grows month by month.
Our projections indicate that in 5 years several hotels will be needed in all categories to meet demand. Hotel demand will increase thanks to the large air connectivity plan that is already underway and that will be the pillar of tourism development. At the same time, we develop technological and tourist intelligence tools to understand where and how to look for new international tourists and how to improve their experience in Buenos Aires.
But perhaps the most important reason to invest in the industry is its future in the short and medium term: the City of Buenos Aires is turning more and more into a very friendly city for families and tourists who want to spend time in destinations that combine high quality gastronomy and diversity, with more green spaces, social life in more neighborhoods, very active cultural life and outdoor walks.
In relation to the initiatives of the City Government, Buenos Aires is experiencing a very ambitious process of developing neighborhoods that are quickly integrated into tourist itineraries. On the other hand, the Paseo del Bajo will reorganize mobility and improve the safety for pedestrians, creating green spaces connecting the City with the Rio de la Plata. As for business tourism, the new Convention Center is going to attract a lot of attention and service- demanding visitors with an average expenditure higher than leisure tourists. Buenos Aires leads the ICCA Ranking of the Americas as the city with the largest number of international events.
2- How did Argentina`s return to international scene influence the city and what does Buenos Aires offer as a tourist destination?
The international reinsertion implied the return of Argentina and especially of Buenos Aires to global forums, to commercial opportunities and to access to international financing. This new scenario has a direct impact on the productive capacities of the country and on people’s quality of life.
In 2016, the City of Buenos Aires joined as a member of the United Nations World Tourism Organization for the first time, which allows the city to participate in international debates on trends in tourism. Next September we will host the Urban Tourism event, receiving all the cities from the Americas and Europe.
In relation to the influence on tourism, the international reinsertion of Argentina resulted in the elimination of migratory barriers, which increases its attractiveness as a tourist destination. It also made possible an air connectivity plan, key to achieve tourism growth. In addition, the liberalization of the exchange rate made us more competitive as a tourist destination.
Going into detail in the connectivity plan, the focus is on increasing the frequencies of current routes to increase volume of tourists and open new routes to meet unsatisfied demand. The Air New Zealand case, for example, occurred when tourist arrivals from that country doubled months after the arrival of the first aircraft. The Mintur Connectivity Plan is developing in a positive way and in the city we are constantly thinking about how we prepare the local offer for the new and diverse public that will come to visit us.
In relation to tourist attractions in Buenos Aires, its wide range of activities turns the city into a privileged destination. Its cultural life is very rich thanks to both its history and trendiness. Argentina´s 5 Nobel Prizes lived in Buenos Aires and the city has several museums, theaters and bookstores to guarantee a very intense day and night life. In fact, its unique theater circuit is headed by Teatro Colón, all a symbol of art. However, artistic life exceeds the cultural centers and museums and the visitor can enjoy artistic manifestations in the public space.
Buenos Aires is a large and diverse city that encourages individual freedom and respect. You can find different cultures and customs in the city as a result of the history of the country and of much of the world. It is a destination highly valued by families, by young students and is also the LGBT capital of the region.
The city has a very interesting offer for luxury tourism, with its high-end hotels, designer shops and art galleries, sports activities such as polo or nautical activities in the river. Also, famous international football matches, revealing Argentine`s popular passion.
We provide guided tours through many neighborhoods of the City for all tourist segments. The city offers nautical activities, running, urban trekking, bike and walking tours to fit all tastes and tourists´ needs.
Nevertheless, perhaps one of the characteristics that most distinguishes Buenos Aires is its gastronomy. We have 8 restaurants ranked among the top 50 in Latin America and a variety of cuisines that, thanks to their top quality, exceed tourists´ expectations. We want to promote this advantage and make it the main attraction of the City.
3- What are the initiatives of InvestBA to promote tourism in the different segments?
Although we work to promote ourselves in the world including all the tourist segments, we are focused on three specific segments like luxury tourism, LGBT and MICE, which are the segments with higher expenditure in the destination.
In luxury tourism we are actively participating in strategic memberships of networks of high-end travel agencies like Virtuoso, LATA and USTOA, opening the doors to the main operators of the English and American market. In addition, through the new e-Learning platform we are training the sales teams of main tour operators from top international markets. These markets were identified through market intelligence: USA. And Canada, UK, Germany, Spain, Australia, New Zealand.
Regarding LGBT, through CCGLAR we participate in activities of international tourist promotion covering the main events of the LGBTIQ community worldwide. In addition, a new edition of the Buenos Aires Diversa Festival will be held from August 14 to 19, 2017, a massive event organized by Latin America’s favorite destination in this segment. Buenos Aires has an advanced legislation.
It is important to note that we work as a team with investBA, the Investment and Foreign Trade Promotion Agency of the City, seeking to attract the necessary investments for the development of the City of Buenos Aires as a tourist destination.
4- The ranking compiled by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) determined that Buenos Aires ranks in the first place in number of events in the region and, also, the city will inaugurate a Convention Center of 18,000 sqm. What value does this segment represent within the city’s economy? What is the average expenditure of tourists who visit the city for meetings and congresses? What other projects are being developed in the city with high impact on its urban transformation?
In 2016 we organized 103 ICCA events, which are international events. Buenos Aires is ranked 1st in America and 17th globally showing our leading performance during last year, which we will keep this year. We work hard to achieve this goal because this segment is a priority for us.
The business tourism and the MICE segment is one of the most important for us and one of our main objectives for the next years. To understand its magnitude, according to the data of our Tourist Observatory, in 2016 413 thousand tourists arrived from other countries for business purposes, which accounted for 20% of the total foreign tourists. They spent US $ 434.1 million, which is equivalent to saying that each tourist spent US $ 1,050 on their 6-night stay in Buenos Aires. The latest data available for the 1st quarter of 2017 indicates that the arrival of tourists for purposes increased by 30% with spending showing a similar increase. This is our starting point. The inauguration of the CEC this year will be of utter importance to us.
We expect that during 2017 the total number of tourists and expenditure will be increased by the new facilities of the Convention Center, which will attract more events and, therefore, more tourists. The CEC is a unique venue in Latin America given its architectural quality, originality and versatility of interior spaces. It accommodates 5,000 people. The project will transform the surrounding area thanks to its importance. In September, two events (with WTO and Smart Cities) are scheduled to mark what next year will be a set trend: international events based in Buenos Aires. This will make it possible to go beyond seasonal tourism demand and generate opportunities for all tourism sectors.
5- In terms of hotel investment, what is missing in Buenos Aires and where are the main opportunities? Do you think that there is an oversupply in any hotel segment?
In the hotel industry we believe that we must work on two main concepts. First, investments must be able to anticipate what will become a reality: the national and international tourism segments will grow at such a rate that in 5 years the number of hotels in all segments will have to increase. We estimate that between one and three new 5-star hotels will be needed by 2022 and about seven 4-star hotels.
Boutique hotels will also be in need, especially in areas that emerge as new tourist hubs like La Boca, Barracas, San Telmo among others. Today, most of them are located in downtown area and Palermo.
The development of the southern area will be very important and there are several initiatives aimed at eliminating historical disparities with other neighborhoods of the city, such as the establishment of government offices in this area. For its part, La Boca will host Art Basel Cities and development in the public areas of this neightbourhood will continue.
Gonzalo Robredo has experience in both the public and private sectors. He was the founder of a group oriented to the design of public policies (Think Tank) and worked in the national government in different social areas.
Fifteen years ago he decided to embark on the tourism industry, managing urban and non-urban boutique hotels. He positioned himself in the luxury market, operating from the Caribbean to Tierra del Fuego. His projects were always innovative and successful. His public vocation has led him to accept the responsibility of directing the Tourist Office of the City of Buenos Aires.”
To find out more about Ente de Turismo, visit: buenosaires.gob.ar/innovacion/institucional-ente-de-turismo