We recently sat down with Tom Kiely, executive vice president, tourism, for the San Francisco Travel Association, who just returned from sales mission to Brazil and Argentina accompanied by 10 of his members and two board members, to get an update on how the two key South American source markets to the U.S. are faring. Excerpts from our conversation follow.
INBOUND: The Brazilian market in 2013 and 2014 was robust. What do you see from your trip?
Kiely: In Brazil the currency is somewhat deflated from last year and the US is more expensive, but the leading buyers told us that would mostly affect the middle (C) class—in Brazil they divide the socioeconomic classes into A,B and C—who are buying least expensive trips and for the US that’s Orlando and Miami. The “A” and “B” class travelers who have resources are exploring new destinations and California has been promoting heavily at shows and with representation. We also have our own representation.
INBOUND: What Makes Brazilians so valuable as tourists?
Kiely: In 2014, we had 100,000 Brazilian tourists and we expect a 10% increase. Unlike other source markets that usually visit only the most iconic attractions such as the Golden Gate Bridge or Fisherman’s Wharf, the Brazilians are 3 times as likely to explore new neighborhoods, dine at new restaurants and visit many out of the way attractions. They are explorers and big time shoppers.
INBOUND: What about Argentina?
Kiely: Argentina right now is a very difficult place to do business, especially in today’s business climate. Tour operators in Argentina told us everyone is waiting for the Presidential election that will take place later this year as they hope that a new president will be more open to economic improvements. Right now they a prohibited from take money in or out of the country, there are surcharges on credit card purchases outside the country, so the visitor are trying to game the system by pre-paying for everything.
The regulations were so restrictive we even had problems shipping our brochures to Buenos Aires and had to carry very heavy boxes of brochure that were to be handed out at events.
INBOUND: How were the missions structured?
Kiely: We conducted sales calls to the key buyers and media during the day and held dinners and networking functions for them in the evening. We had our president and CEO, Joe D’Allessandro, with us and his presence was critical for attracting major media coverage, which we received.