Acknowledging the importance of tourism to the economy, Argentina recently upgraded its Secretaría de Turismo (Secretariat of Tourism) to full cabinet status, and its top official, Enrique Meyer, is now the country’s first Ministro de Turismo (Tourism Minister). According to Montevideo-based Mercopress, tourism accounts for six percent of GDP and, according to Ministro Meyer (a native of Santa Cruz province who happens to be a neighbor of ours in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Palermo), foreign arrivals in 2010 will total more than five million.
Though the number of visitors declined in 2009, due in part to the H1N1 (swine flu) scare, there has been a strong rebound in 2010 - figures for May, for example, show an increase of nearly 22 percent over the previous year. With only a brief summary of the statistics, I don’t presume to say this is definitive, but there’s no doubt the industry is looking up.
The breakdown of visitors is interesting: about 30 percent come from Brazil (as its strong currency makes Argentina a real budget destination for Brazilians), about 11 percent from Chile, 19 percent from Europe, 12 percent from the United States and Canada, 22 percent from the rest of Latin America, and the rest from elsewhere in the world. Thus, anyone interested in visiting Argentina will be far from alone but, in the world’s eighth-largest country (slightly smaller than India, but with only about 40 million inhabitants), there will be plenty of places to visit without tripping over other tourists.
That brings me to the point of today’s article: In last Friday’s post, I offered a free copy of Moon Buenos Aires to the first two readers who could name the only Spanish-speaking country other than Argentina that permits gay marriage. Unfortunately, the contest has so far gone unanswered, perhaps because I buried it at the bottom of a relatively long article with several photographs.
On a continent that is often below the radar on the international news scene, the legalization of same-sex marriage brought Argentina more notoriety than anything since the military junta of the 1980s invaded the Falkland Islands - in fact, it even made the opinion page of The Onion. Thus I repeat the offer: I will provide free copies of the current edition of Moon Buenos Aires for the first two readers who can name the only other Spanish-speaking country to permit same-sex marriage.
Because I want to give the books away soon, I will even offer a hint: the country in question is NOT in the Americas. Please send all entries to the address in the header above; do not comment on this page. If the winners prefer, they may choose a copy of Moon Argentina or Moon Patagonia.