Sustainability needs to be at the centre of growth in travel to Latin America, according to the region’s tourism association.

Colin Stewart, chairman of the Latin American Travel Association (Lata), opened this year’s B2B show Experience Latin America (ELA) with a message to delegates about its role in managing the growth of visitor numbers to its key destinations.

It came as the region saw a drop of 2.2% in the number of departures from the UK between January and April 2019, compared to an overall drop in departures to other international destinations of 3.7%.

Stewart said: “We are keen to see all of our partners experience growth, but there’s also an element of sustainable growth.

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“We are all about driving growth and driving travel from the UK to Latin America but as Lata, we are also keen on sustainable travel and ensuring we take responsibility for our role.

“Last year we outlined our Sustainability Charter. Since then, we have had a number of our members sign up to that charter.

“I think we can make a difference and at Lata, we are trying to provide the framework for us to do that.”

According to data from airline booking analyst Forward Keys, looking at the first four months of this year, the number of visits booked via GDS to the Galápagos Islands rose by 35%, to Honduras by 28%, to Argentina and Guatemala by 18% and to Guyana by 10%.

Conversely, travel to Mexico and Peru dropped by around 10% and to Cuba by more than 20%, said Stewart.

Looking at forward bookings from now until the end of October, Stewart added: “Bookings to Cuba and Peru seem to be down slightly year on year. We can see a drop in demand to Panama, but Air Europa has just launched a new service there. We continue to see strong bookings for Argentina, the Dominican Republic, the Galápagos and Guyana.”

ELA, now in its sixth year, has moved to a new venue at Stamford Bridge in London, home of Chelsea Football Club, and is being managed by Travel Weekly parent company Jacobs Media Group.

Stewart added: “We feel that this venue matches our objectives as a member association – it’s a bit special.

“We’re delighted to welcome 56 buyers from Europe, representing 18 European countries.

We have around 145 exhibitors at ELA, and about 350 buyers. There will be around 5,200 meetings taking place over the next three days.”

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