While it is the number three world regional market, behind Europe and Asia, South America has been steadily increasing the number of visitors it sends to the United States over the past eight years. Data made available by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) show that, during this period, visitors to the USA South American countries have increased at a rate that is more than double that of total international visitors (including neighboring Canada and Mexico) and almost 50 percent greater that visitors from long-haul overseas markets—even though the regions of Europe and Asia dwarf South America’s population. Currently (2018), arrivals from the three regions look like this:
In Context: While economic conditions seem to have helped cause a slump in the South American market and other world regional markets, South America seems poised to continue its steady increase this year—Argentina excepted. Even Venezuela, whose economy is a virtual basket case and which gets no direct air service from U.S. legacy carriers, has stopped negative growth in visitor numbers.
For a quick read of what the data in the two tables below show, INBOUND has prepared brief takes on factors that have had an impact on the growth numbers of the top South American source markets over the past eight years.
—Since Chile became part of the USA’s Visa Waiver Program in May 2014, traffic to the U.S. has been on a non-stop growth curve, more than doubling from 2011 to 2018.
—From mid-2014 through most of 2016, Brazil experienced a severe economic crisis … so severe that Brazilians referred to it—and still refer to it—simply as “La Crise” (“The Crisis”). The economic crisis became coupled with a political crisis in Brazil that resulted in the impeachment of president Dilma Rousseff and in widespread dissatisfaction with the political system. By the beginning of 2017, the country’s GDP has grown for two consecutive quarters, marking the end of the recession. Inbound travel to the USA has staged a recovery, though its levels have yet to reach 2014 levels.
—Colombia, more than any another nation in Latin America, has borne the brunt of the political and economic disruption taking place within neighboring Venezuela. According to a report early last month (June), the United Nations said that more than 4 million refugees and migrants have left Venezuela, with 1.3 million of them settling in Colombia. One of the secondary impacts on Colombia has been a check on the desire to travel.
—Argentina is experiencing what seems to be an unchecked slide into a recession that “launched” last year. One measure is the value of its currency, which fell by more than 65 percent since the beginning of 2018. Retail travel agents and tour operators have suffered greatly from the impact.
—Uruguay, which is sometimes referred to as the “Switzerland of South America,” has an export-driven economy that is among the most stable in the western hemisphere, and its banks are an attractive place for foreigners to keep their savings. Geographically the second smallest country in South America (Suriname is the smallest), it is also the smallest major country in the continent in population, with some 3.5 million people. Its above-normal levels of travel-able people makes it a reliable—if modest—source of inbound travel.