Latin America tourism chiefs are targeting greater direct airlift and increased trade awareness in the UK as the region reopens after the pandemic.
Ministers from Colombia, Belize and Ecuador joined tour operators including Journey Latin America and Pura Aventura and industry experts to discuss how Latin America can promote itself more effectively as a destination during a think-tank at Lata Expo on Wednesday afternoon (June 15).
They agreed that connectivity to Latin America is one of the key barriers facing the region as they called on airlines to provide more direct flights.
Speaking during the panel discussion, Steppes Travel product and sales director Jarrod Kyte said: “We all know flights out of the UK are a pain and that connectivity is key. The market wants convenience.
“We can all lobby BA for more flights but we also know the airline industry is in a state of flux at the moment and things aren’t going to change quickly on that front.”
Kyte added that destinations must find “pragmatic solutions” while connectivity to Latin America is low, such as targeting the luxury market.
“What’s key is that we target a part of the market that we know will be able to cope with some of the challenges we have in terms of connectivity,” he said.
“I’m talking about the higher-end market; the cash-rich and time-rich clients who can spend that little bit extra and can be flexible in terms of when they depart.
“It’s about applying pragmatic solutions to the issue while still trying to lobby BA to get extra connectivity.”
Concerns over lack of connectivity were echoed during the round-table debate by Latin Routes co-founder Martin Johnson, who labelled it a “real issue”.
Johnson stressed another barrier to overcome was a “lack of awareness and education” about Latin America among the UK travel trade, but that an increasing number of agents were starting to learn more about the product and are finding it to be “exciting”.
Speaking in a panel discussion after the think-tank, UK and European director of ProColombia Jose Puyana said Latin American destinations need to promote the fact the continent is “closer than people think” to both trade partners and direct clients.
“Latin America is actually not that far away, and we need to share that message whenever we address any agent or consumer,” he said.
“It takes a similar amount of time to get to India as it does certain destinations in Latin America, for example.
“That mental barrier makes some people in the UK market think Latin America is too difficult and that you need to be an intrepid explorer to visit, but we need to demystify that.”