Explora Patagonia

I was quoted a few times in Travel Weekly last week in a long article about the impressive tourism numbers coming out of Argentina and Chile. I’ve been saying for quite a while that there is a good bit of “Europe substitution” going on—travelers deciding to head south instead of across the Atlantic. Now we have some hard numbers to back it up. The number of Americans visiting Europe this past July was down 15 percent from 2007. Meanwhile, the number of Americans going to Chile in the first half of ’08 increased by 15.8 percent. Coincidence?

No, it just makes lots more sense from a value standpoint. When the Ritz-Carlton in Santiago costs in dollars what the Ritz-Carlton in Barcelona costs in euros, that’s a difference of 40 or 50 percent. Stroll around town for a meal and a bottle of wine in Santiago or Buenos Aires and the difference is even more dramatic, as in a tab that’s 1/4 to 1/3 a comparable meal in Europe, even at the best restaurant in town. There’s value even at the very top of the possible budget range, whether you are looking at hotels, adventure tour packages, or villa rentals.

LAN is stepping up flights as a result, says Travel Weekly. “The carrier now fields four nonstop flights per week from New York Kennedy to Santiago plus daily service from Kennedy via Lima, Peru; 10 weekly flights from Miami; and three weekly, nonstop flights from Los Angeles plus four via Lima. This month, the airline is set to launch service to Toronto.

Luxury Chile Travel page

Luxury Argentina Travel page

[Photo courtesy of Explora Salto Chico in Patagonia.]