The people of Latin America boast of their land's fine and varied geography, with its beaches, forests and mountains; they are proud of the inheritance left them by the peoples who inhabited these lands in pre-Hispanic times, and which are standing today in the form of its archeological remains, the wonders of which are scattered all across the continent; and then there is the rich mixture of races and cultures that make up the modern cities of the region.
But if this part of the world is so magical, why isn't it also the most visited?
According to statistics of the most visited countries in 2010 , Mexico has the highest ranking among Latin American nations, in tenth place on the list, followed by Argentina, which is at number 43. And if we take into account that France, which heads the list, receives 79.3 million tourists, compared with the 22.6 million that put Mexico in tenth place, and the 5.2 million that visit Argentina, it becomes clear that Latin America is not chosen by large numbers of people as a tourist destination.
However, if we look at these statistics from a historical  perspective, tourism to Latin America has increased, and, even if not dramatically so, certainly enough to provide governments with reason to grant more importance to the sector. As mentioned  [es] in a statement on EnlaRedRadio, there are various challenges for the region when it comes to increasing tourism:
Marco Antonio Serrato, director general de Educación Ejecutiva en el TEC de Monterrey en México, comenta que entre los temas que determinan el debate actual sobre el turismo en la región, destacan “el rol que la industria juega como motor del desarrollo económico y social en los países de América Latina; la puesta en valor de los activos, sean naturales, culturales, arqueológicos o humanos, con los que nuestros países cuentan para posicionar la actividad turística y las marcas país a nivel internacional; y la diversificación del turismo en variantes no solo de playa, sino de naturaleza, cultura, negocios, salud y congresos”.
Serrato añade que “el desarrollo de estrategias e infraestructuras que promuevan y faciliten un turismo sostenible y la mejora de servicios complementarios como los gastronómicos, telefonía móvil, renta de vehículos y hospitalarios, además de la profesionalización de los trabajadores que atienden a los usuarios, al igual que garantizar la seguridad de los turistas y reforzar la percepción de esta, son tareas que vienen aparejadas con los lineamientos de desarrollo más generales”.
Marco Antonio Serrato, Executive Director General of Education at the Monterrey TEC in Mexico, notes that key issues that shape the current debate about tourism in the region include, “the role the industry plays as the engine of economic and social development in the countries of Latin America; attaching a true value to the assets our countries possess, whether these be natural, cultural, archeological or in terms of its people, and which will allow us to locate our tourist activity and national brands at an international level; and the diversification of tourism into activities that move beyond simple beach holidays into offering the experience of our natural environment, and other activities related to culture, business, health and the staging of conferences”.
Serrato adds that, “the development of strategies and infrastructures that stimulate sustainable tourism, the improvement of complementary services in gastronomy, in the mobile telephone network, vehicle rental and hospitality services, as well as the professional training of the workforce that deals with tourists, guaranteeing their safety and security and increasing their perception of the same – all these are tasks that are entailed in the development of the most general of plans.”
Jorge Gobbi, Global Voices author and blogger specialising in tourist matters, wrote  [es] in early 2012 about this growth trend in tourism in Latin America in his Blog de Viajes  (Travel Blog) [es]:
se pueden señalar al menos dos cosas. La primera, las cifras de crecimiento de las naciones sudamericanas se ubica entre el 8 al 14%, dos a tres veces más que la tasa de crecimiento mundial. Segundo, buena parte de ese crecimiento se está dando gracias al aumento del turismo regional. Lo que es una muy buena consecuencia de la mejor situación económica y del aumento del consumo en nuestros países.
Con esas perspectivas, es de esperar que para este 2012 los organismos de turismo sudamericanos se van a concentrar en incrementar su promoción en otros países de la región, sin apuntar tanto a América del Norte y Europa. Esperemos que 2012 sea la consolidación de una tendencia de crecimiento económico a mediano y largo plazo en América del Sur, ya que las perspectivas globales no parecen demasiado positivas.
at least two points can be identified. First, growth figures of between 8% and 14% among South American nations, which are between two and three times the rate for the world as a whole. Second, a good part of this growth is due to tourism within the region itself. This is one very positive consequence of the improved economic situation and the growth in consumption within our countries.
From this perspective, it is to be hoped that tourist organisations across South America are going to focus in 2012 on increasing their promotional activities in other countries in the region, and not give so much attention to the North American and European markets. Let's hope that 2012 will be the year of consolidation towards both a medium and long term trend in economic growth in South America, particularly as the global picture isn't particularly positive.
A question follows: What concrete actions are governments or businesses taking to increase the flow of tourists into their countries? Apart from the infrastructure works and service sector training that needs to be carried out, one of the most common strategies is that of the publicity campaign.
Colombia is host to one of the most well-known tourist promotion campaigns, with its slogan, “Colombia, the danger is you'll want to stay“, which was preceded by the establishment of the country brand: “Colombia is passion ” [es]. There is an official travel guide  to accompany the campaign, which has produced various  promotional  videos :
Another Colombian neighbour, Panama, has recently launched  [es] its “Disfruta Panamá” or “Enjoy Panama” campaign, which makes use of a YouTube channel  and Facebook pages in both Spanish  and English , as well as Twitter accounts, also in Spanish  and English . The website Visit Panama  provides an additional resource.
As for Central America, although there is a regional campaign  to promote tourism within the region, several of its countries have their own campaigns, as in the case of Guatemala with its “Corazón del Mundo Maya ” [Heart of the Mayan World], or Costa Rica's “Sin Ingredientes Artificiales ” (No Artificial Ingredients).
Mexico is running several campaigns, one of which, Mundo Maya 2012  [Mayan World 2012, es], places the same emphasis as Guatemala on the ancient Mayan civilisation. Another is Visit Mexico . The Federal Executive Authority in this country has its own Ministry of Tourism, which initiates the development of tourist destinations and activities at the same time as promoting these among both Mexicans and those from abroad. And then there is the Mexican Tourist Board (also an arm of the Federal Government), which coordinates, designs and develops both national strategies and those targeting the overseas market.
Moving south, we find “Chile es tuyo ” [Chile belongs to you, es], a campaign mainly targeted at the internal tourist market. Something similar can be found in Argentina's “Viajá por tu país ” [Travel your own land, es]. But we also come across local initiatives here, as in the case of that of the Tourist Secretariat of Santa Cruz Patagonia  [es] or that of Mendoza  [es].
In neighbouring Uruguay there are several websites that promote tourism in the country, including Tourists Club Uruguay , Viaje a Uruguay  [Journey to Uruguay, es] and Turismo en Uruguay  [es].
Several campaigns have been put into motion in Peru as part of the activity that takes place within its country brand , with the launch of a new campaign  [es] in the coming days. One of its previous campaigns, “Perú: Vive la leyenda” [Peru: Live the Legend] was a prizewinner in Brazil last year. This is the video:
I had the opportunity earlier this year to speak with the Argentinian journalist and blogger previously cited in this article, Jorge Gobbi, and we recorded a short podcast  [es] about tourism in Latin America today.
Although the above is not an exhaustive survey, it does give a rough idea of how the promotion of tourism is currently taking place in a region with an infinite number of attractions to offer to both local and international visitors.