The writer (right) with Gustavo Santos, Minister of Tourism for Argentina // © 2016 Kenneth Shapiro
Feature image (above): Buenos Aires, Argentina // © 2016 iStock
It’s clear from the moment you meet Gustavo Santos, Minister of Tourism for Argentina, that he is passionate about travel.
“I hope you get to know my country not only with your eyes, but to see it with your heart,” he said in a recent speech. “Once you travel throughout the country, you’ll see there are a lot of different parts of Argentina and a lot of different cultures. But all of us Argentinians have our hands extended to greet anyone who comes to visit, and we welcome you.”
Santos made these comments at the Buy Argentina tourism conference, held April 10-17 outside Buenos Aires. Representatives from nearly 100 travel companies from some 30 countries joined local travel agencies, destinations and tour operators to learn about tourism possibilities throughout the country. The event, which had been discontinued, was brought back three years ago and has grown every year since its revival.
Santos is part of a new government regime, which came into power after the country found itself in a dire economic situation. There’s every indication that the new leadership is making tourism a top priority.
“The openness of Argentina to the world is a great opportunity,” Santos said. “For example, when President Obama visited our country and was seen dancing tango, and when he visited Patagonia with his family, it is not only something for the country to be proud of, but it shows support for tourism in general.”
Santos is the perfect spokesperson for this new focus on hospitality. Friendly, warm and with an infectious love of his country, Santos is the kind of government minister who wants to keep talking to media about his country — even when his handlers are pulling him away for other obligations.
“Through tour operators, I want the whole world to get to know the country and fall in love with Argentina,” he said. “Our challenge is to make the world get to know a country that has much more than most people know. Argentina is Patagonia, Argentina is tango, Argentina is Iguazu Falls. But Argentina is much more than that too.”
Santos said that travel agents in the U.S. should expect to see more marketing messages about Argentina in the years to come, and he encourages agents to visit.
“I hope more people visit our country, which is really a continent in itself,” Santos said. “It encompasses all cultures, all climates and all landscapes, and has people who love to make friends with all visitors.”
The Buy Argentina event is just one step in the marketing of the country, but Santos feels that a bigger key is to get travelers to experience his homeland.
“Buy Argentina,” Santos said. “But buy it with your heart first — so that way you can sell it to your clients with the love that you received from my country.”