Latin America 2011

The region is booming with diverse product, from new hotels to air routes, as well as rail and tour options.

Once a year, travel planners specializing in Central and South America, head for the region’s biggest product marketplace, TravelMartLatinAmerica (TMLA), held last fall in Lima, Peru. As buyers made their rounds of pre-scheduled business appointments with some 350 supplier companies, they found an unusually high number of new products and services—particularly in new air, rail and expedition cruise travel, as well as new lodgings—from boutique to grand—and touring options to new corners of the Americas.

“TMLA was actually born 32 years ago in Lima,” said Irma Coleman, president and CEO of William H. Coleman, Inc., the organizing company. “Peru, a great host country for four of our TravelMarts in Latin America, always pulls a record number of delegates.” Next year’s marketplace, Coleman announced, will be held Sept. 11-13 in Florianopolis, Brazil.

There were indeed dozens of new products to discover at TMLA 2010, although airline news heralding big changes in getting to and around South America drew top billing. Consider just a sampling from this attendee’s notebook.

up in the air LAN Airlines was on the marketplace floor, introducing its ever-expanding Americas network, including a new nonstop flight from San Francisco to Lima. Within South America, LAN now flies to over 70 destinations, most recently enlarging its reach from Lima with three new routes: daily service to the Galapagos Islands—Quito/Guayaquil/Baltra; Lima to Pto Iguazu, Argentina’s airport gateway to Iguazu Falls, with four weekly flights; and Lima to Easter Island, with two flights weekly, Wednesday and Sunday. The loudest airline buzz on the TravelMart floor was LAN’s acquisition of the Colombian airline AIRES, currently the second largest operator in the Colombian domestic market, and the negotiations were underway to combine LAN and the Brazilian airline TAM.

TACA Airlines, meanwhile, offers 10 gateways in North America connecting nonstop to Central America gateways, including its hometown of San Salvador. The carrier has established a second hub in Peru, with daily nonstop flights just inaugurated between Miami and Lima. “With this flight, we are also increasing our passengers’ flight options to make immediate connections on arrival in Lima to our newest South America destinations that include Mendoza, Brasilia and to Antofagasta,” said Evelyn de la Vega, TACA’s sales manager. Additionally, TACA is increasing frequencies to the cities it now serves from Lima: Montevideo, Asuncion, Guayaquil, Buenos Aires and Santiago, and the airline will add seven frequencies to its Lima/Cusco service. TACA, incidentally, is now a member of the Star Alliance.

TAM, too, has been busy, launching a nonstop flight last month between Miami and Belo Horizonte, three times weekly, and between Miami and Brasilia four times a week. These two cities join Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Recife and Manaus on the TAM roster of nonstop flight services from its North American gateways.

in argentina Buenos Aires gets some 80 percent of the foreign travelers coming to Argentina, and hotels continue to expand the city’s accommodations inventory. The much-heralded Alvear Palace, for example, will have a thoroughly modern sister hotel when the Alvear Art Hotel opens its doors this September at Plaza San Martin. The second property in the Alvear family will have137 rooms, decorated in an elegant, contemporary style, an international restaurant with a winter garden, spa and fitness center, a business center and a 200-person meeting room. A third Alvear hotel is slated to open in the Puerto Madero area in 2012.

in ecuador Metropolitan Touring has moved beyond its home base of Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands to become a continent-wide tour company, with offices and operations in Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Colombia. However, in Ecuador, the company will be launching two new hotel projects, both scheduled to open mid-July this year. The first will be Casona de San Miguel, a historic mansion on Plaza San Francisco in the historic heart of Quito, beautifully restored to a 31-room boutique hotel. The second project is Mashpi Lodge, Rainforest Biodiversity Reserve. Located 2.5 hours northwest of Quito within a 2,620-acre private rainforest reserve, the lodge will accommodate guests in 18 ample, luxurious suites. Facilities include a reading room with Internet access, a spa, lounges and a restaurant accenting organic product. An aerial tram will transport guests through the upper tree canopy.