Destinations across Latin America must push back on the international perception of the region, chief of the Latin American Travel Association (Lata) Danny Callaghan has said.
Speaking at Aito’s Alive and Kicking conference on Tuesday (15 December), Callaghan said with Latin America extending from Mexico’s northern border with the US several thousand miles south to the southernmost regions of Chile and Argentina, it was unfair to look at the region’s efforts on Covid as a collective – especially considering Brazil’s particular might.
"One problem we’ve had since May is the temptation in the British media to describe Latin America as one entity," said Callaghan. "It’s a difficult situation from a PR perspective."
Putting Brazil aside, Callaghan said countries "generally" locked down fairly early, with some efforts proving so effective that these countries remain in a first spike of infection.
"They held it really well," said Callaghan, who added rates of infection per head of population across many Latin American destinations compared favourably with the UK.
He said the problem for Lata was now the perilous state of members on-the-ground across the continent, some of whom he said were "hanging by a thread", and the inability for UK travellers to transit without incurring quarantine – with only Cuba, Chile and Uruguay so far afforded quarantine-free travel corridors.
Callaghan said there were, nonetheless, several countries in Latin America ready to receive tourists safely, with protocols accounting for the challenges of keeping people safe.
"We’re hoping it won’t be long," he said. "Tourist boards and governments understand the importance of tourism to economies. They understand the realities of protecting tourists."
He added Lata was working with Aito and other tourism bodies to lobby the Foreign Office for more travel corridors, and said it was his belief demand was by stifled by regulations and restrictions rather than Covid itself. "We are in a good place for when there is certainty."
Nigel Vere-Nicoll, chief executive of the African Travel and Tourism Association (Atta), said that Africa had suffered similarly, with many more developed nations failing to understand the Covid situation in Africa or offer travel corridors.
"Africa has a very good record on Covid," he said, citing the continent’s relatively low average age with 60% of the population aged 25 or under, the relative infrequency of intra-continental travel, and the fact people live more of their lives outdoors.
Vere-Nicoll said from a travel perspective, like Latin America, the continent had faced a similarly "unfair playing field" – it still being served by only three UK government travel corridors, the first of which weren’t announced until late November.