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During the COVID-19 pandemic — when international travel has largely taken a backseat to closer-to-home jaunts — Joaquin Bruna and his business partner, Christian Morrison, haven’t spent the past year twiddling their thumbs. Rather, they’ve spent their time actively promoting Chile as the perfect place for adventurous travelers to pass their post-pandemic vacation days.
(Note: As of press time, U.S. travelers can enter Chile, but must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of boarding their flight. They must also complete an obligatory 10-day quarantine upon their arrival, which can be broken with a negative PCR test result based on a test taken on or after the seventh day in quarantine. Travelers must remain in quarantine while they await their result, and they must also submit a health form and proof of a travel insurance policy that includes COVID-19 coverage upon arrival.)
Here’s what Bruna and Morrison want travel advisors to know about why Chile is primed to become a top destination for travelers in 2021.
How has the Chilean government responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, and what’s the outlook for the months to come?Health protocols have been rigorously applied, especially by establishments that seek to protect their operation and sources of work, such as transfer services, restaurants and others. Although there has been strong criticism of many measures, there is a general consensus in the population to follow the rules and maintain self-care.
It is expected that 80% of the Chilean population will have accessed the vaccine by the end of the first half of 2021. It is important to mention that Chile was the first Latin American country to receive the Pfizer vaccine and to begin its vaccination process in December 2020. In negotiations with laboratories, it agreed to 20 million doses with Pfizer and Sinovac. Chile has a population of approximately 18 million inhabitants, so the entire process could be relatively quick.
Why is Chile an especially appealing destination moving into 2021? Without a doubt, there is a greater tendency on the part of people to travel to destinations rich in nature and adventure activities. Chile has a wide variety of activities and destinations for those seeking adventure, but most of all, the country is still wild and that’s something that really captivates travelers. The feeling of being in a place that is unexplored and untouched by humanity connects us deeply to our inner being, making life-changing impacts on people’s view of the massiveness of nature.
Some top adventure activities that we recommend are hiking the W or the O circuits in Torres del Paine;kayaking the Marble Caves in the Austral Road in Aysen, Patagonia; hiking along with the massive Alerce trees in Alerce Andino National Park; whitewater rafting in Pucon; ballooning over the Atacama Desert; and hiking Maunga Terevaka volcano on Easter Island.
What EcoChile adventure itineraries do you think will be most popular once international travel resumes?Those seeking off-the-beaten-path destinations might enjoy the Patagonian fjords circuit in Magallanes, Chile (four days); Dientes de Navarino trekking on Navarino Island, Chile (five days); Las Horquetas trekking in Aysen, Chile (four days); or our Patagonian Route of Parks tour (from 12 days).
Tailor-made trips, self-drive tours and small-group itineraries will be the trend for 2021 and beyond. The huge advantage of tailor-made travel is that the activities and transfers between places can be done in a private and semi-private mode, keeping social distancing a priority while travelers move at their own pace.
The feeling of being in a place that is unexplored and untouched by humanity connects us deeply to our inner being, making life-changing impacts on people’s view of the massiveness of nature.
Meanwhile, self-drive trips are perfect for those seeking real freedom and flexibility. A self-drive itinerary can include a list of recommended places to visit and drive between different locations. It’s possible to pick up the car at an airport and leave it in another region, which is super helpful for traveling long distances (and allows the opportunity to see different landscapes).
Accommodations, car rentals and activities can be pre-arranged by a local tour operator, permitting travelers to spend their time enjoying the trip without the logistical baggage. And finally, regular small-group departures with a set departure date will still be a great opportunity for people who want to meet other travelers or share costs. The main difference is that the groups will be considerably smaller, keeping good track of all the participants. One of the advantages of this type of travel is that the services are fully private, but also more affordable since the costs are shared with the rest of the group.
Why is sustainable travel especially important to EcoChile?The pandemic has pushed people to rethink whether the tourism industry was following the correct steps. Tourism and hotel operators have been able to use this pause period to reflect and reform their products, forcing greater personalization of services, an emphasis on small groups and greater awareness of the environment. This is going to promote an increasingly responsible tourism, which finally translates into a better experience for the end user. This is where EcoChile has been working hard to find the best suppliers along the country, along with suggesting those with eco-friendly policies, locals and involvement with the community.
Some of the requirements we demand and include in our itineraries include that the food provided is locally prepared with regional ingredients. We also require the use of reusable or glass bottles, and recyclable containers to reduce single-use plastics. Our top recommended hotels include sustainability policies as part of their mission and operations, and we work in collaboration with local suppliers and communities in each location.
Our tour groups are small and, when possible, we visit attractions during the less-frequented hours, both to improve the experience for the traveler and to reduce the impact on the places we visit. We also respect and value the lifestyles, beliefs and traditions of the local communities we visit.
RELATED: Why Tierra Hotels Is the No. 1 Choice for a Luxurious Chile Itinerary
What should U.S. travel advisors know about working with you?Quality is our top priority. We always choose the best available service at every destination and prioritize experience rather than covering checkpoints. We get to know the people behind the services we offer by trying them ourselves, making sure that they fit the traveler’s expectations and standards.
We believe that getting to know the traveler before they come is key for understanding the traveler’s unique needs and expectations. One of the most important things to keep in mind when working with us as a DMC is that we will make a great effort to get to know the person better.
Having a nice bottle of wine at the hotel for a traveler’s birthday or anniversary, arranging special activities, organizing tours for people with disabilities or making special adjustments for families traveling with kids are some examples of how we’ve made travelers’ experiences more memorable.