A file photo shows the stunning natural wonder of Chile. (Photo/People.com.cn)
The continued growth of Chinese tourism spending is said to be prompting countries throughout Latin America to try to bank on the region's increased global popularity in recent years to convince more Chinese people to make the journey half-way around the world. [Special coverage]
This year's Rio Olympics helped focus the world's attention on Latin America, generating increased interest in the region among Chinese tourists.
Traditionally, Chinese visitors to Latin America have only accounted for a small portion of outbound Chinese travel.
But recent stats show this percentage is increasing rapidly.
Those working within the Chinese travel industry are suggesting that beyond major sporting events, preferential visa policies to certain Latin American countries have helped boost interest from China.
A travel agent surnamed Zhang explains the reason.
"Many of our customers have already covered Asia, North America and Europe. But South America is still new to them, with many exciting cultures to explore. Some countries have eliminated visa requirements for Chinese tourists, such as Ecuador. Countries like Argentina have also simplified the visa application process for Chinese nationals. This shows that these countries need the Chinese market to boost their tourism sectors. This is a good trend."
It's said the natural and cultural wonders of Latin America, as well as the improving ties between China and countries in the region, are also helping increase Chinese tourist flows.
However, a number of challenges still remain, with the sheer distance among the most significant.
Ge Lei works in the travel sector in China.
"The development of tourist exchanges between the China and Latin America is still in the very early stages. Right now, the main challenge is transportation. Latin America is the furthest place from China someone can travel. Flights from China usually have to connect through the US, Dubai or Europe. A one-way trip can take up to 40 hours, which is very tiring. Flights and tour package prices have also remained relatively high."
Due to these limitations, Chinese visitors to Latin America are still mostly high-income individuals or retirees who have a lot more time on their hands.
Recognizing these challenges, many Latin American countries have decided to ramp up their promotions in China.
During the recent China International Travel Mart trade show in Shanghai, the Colombian delegation unveiled a variety of tour packages focusing on that country's natural beauty and cultural opportunities.
"We have promotional events every year. This year we have already met with travel agencies from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. We are bringing Colombian agencies to China, helping them prepare promotional materials in Chinese and work with their Chinese counterparts."
Riding on the increased interest in South America, certain travel agencies in China have also developed high-end tours to the South Pole, which can be reached by flights or cruises, usually departing from Chile's southern tip, Punta Arena.
Additionally, agencies and airlines are also working on creating direct flights between China and Latin America.