Tourism is a growth sector for Chile. In 2018, the direct contribution of tourism was estimated to make up 3.3% of GDP, or CLP 6.4 trillion, and 4.4% of employment. When the indirect contribution is included, it is estimated that tourism accounts for 10.1% of GDP and 9.9% of total employment. In the five years to 2018, tourism-related employment grew by 26.3%, well ahead of overall employment growth, which grew at 7.7%. Tourism generated exports to the value of around CLP 2.4 trillion, which makes tourism the most important service export for the country. Travel exports represented  28.8% of total service exports in 2018.

Chile welcomed 5.7 million international tourists in 2018, a reduction of 11.3% compared with 2017. This fall was due in large part to a drop in visitors from Argentina, which is a key source market, representing more than half of all international visitors in 2017. Beyond Argentina, Chile is targeting marketing resources to attract visitors from other priority markets: Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Spain, United Kingdom and United States. China had the highest growth in 2018 at 12.4% while the Brazilian market grew by 8.1%.

As far as domestic tourism is concerned, 24.5 million overnight trips were taken in 2018, up 6.3% compared with 2017, with a further 25.2 million same-day trips. Income generated by domestic tourism is estimated at CLP 3.9 trillion.

Tourism in Chile comes under the responsibility of the Undersecretary for Tourism within the Ministry of Economy, Development and Tourism, which is in charge of designing and implementing national tourism policies and strategies.

A variety of initiatives have been taken by the Ministry to improve the institutional structure and strengthen the governance of tourism. New co-ordination mechanisms between key ministries have been actioned to enable tourism development, including the establishment of the Board of Concessions in Protected Wild Areas together with the Ministries of Agriculture, National Properties and Environment. Legislation is also being prepared to improve the functions of tourism-related institutions and increase the opportunities for collaboration. The two lead institutions, the Undersecretary of Tourism, responsible for developing tourism policy, and the National Tourism Service (SERNATUR), will likely be merged into one single institution, which can efficiently design public policy and also execute it effectively at the regional level. This is a legal innovation with little precedent in Chile, and a sign of modernisation in public administration. Such a merger is seen as a logical development that would increase efficiencies with no financial implications.

The Undersecretary of Tourism oversees the National Tourism Service, SERNATUR, which is responsible for executing tourism policies and strategies. SERNATUR has regional offices in each of Chile’s 16 administrative regions, headed by a Regional Director. It also has provincial offices in special territories, including Easter Island, San Pedro de Atacama, Chiloe and Puerto Natales.

Through this regional network, SERNATUR co-ordinates activities with regional governments, which finance programmes for tourism promotion and contribute to tourism development initiatives through SERNATUR, and other central government services including the Chilean Economic Development Agency (CORFO), which supports entrepreneurship, innovation and competitiveness, and the Technical Co-operation Service (SERCOTEC). Most local administrations have tourism offices that support the sector, and SERNATUR has also established a network with 309 municipalities with local tourism offices.

In 2019, the Undersecretary of Tourism received a budget of CLP 5.7 billion, while SERNATUR had a budget of CLP 20.2 billion, drawn from the Ministry of Economy. Funding to support tourism projects is also available through the National Fund for Regional Development.

Action under the Responsible Tourism Plan 2020-24 focuses on three areas: strengthening public and private governance, increasing competitiveness of the tourism ecosystem, and promoting responsible tourism.

Planning is now underway for a new National Tourism Strategy covering the period 2020-30. Principal issues to be addressed include improving the structure of institutions, establishing better connections between industry interests, addressing seasonality, and increasing competitiveness. The Strategy is likely to prioritise action on innovation and digital transformation, support a national airports plan, strengthen inter-ministerial co-ordination, develop specific market opportunities, and improve standards and training. It will also update existing legislation and seek increases to the marketing budget.

Fostering new tourism experiences and developing the tourism offer to tap into new market segments is a key area of focus, with actions being taken in a number of priority areas, including:

  • Astro-tourism: the 2020 total solar eclipse will be particularly visible in Chile, and under the 2016-25 Astro-tourism Roadmap the country has set ambitious targets to triple visitor numbers by improving the quality, attractiveness and diversity of the offer. An Inter-sectoral Commission led by the Cabinet of the President and the Ministry of Science is co-ordinating actions for future solar eclipses, working closely with the Undersecretary of Tourism.

  • Wine and gastronomy tourism: the Multi-regional Strategic Programme of Sustainable Wine Tourism is a public-private initiative bringing major wine producing regions together with the tourism industry, while a series of Taste of Chile seminars are stimulating dialogue and connecting key interests to exchange information and facilitate the development of gastronomy tourism.

  • Indigenous tourism: work is underway to develop a pilot project in co-operation with, and based on the national guidelines for developing authentic indigenous experiences of, the Canadian Indigenous Tourism Association. A co-ordination with the Office of Indigenous Affairs (CONADI) is also in place.

  • Routes development: a new product development programme focused on linear touring routes has highlighted the opportunities to draw on a rich culture and landscape, with ten routes now defined under the Routes Chile project. This complements work undertaken by the Ministry of National Properties on Heritage Trails of high landscape value where routes with potential as tourism assets are being developed. Ten routes are prioritised for the period 2018-22.

  • Adventure and sports tourism: a joint programme between the Undersecretary of Tourism and the Ministry of Sport seeks to build on Chile’s strength in this area.

  • Rural tourism: under a collaboration agreement between the Undersecretary of Tourism and the Ministry of Agriculture, a joint action plan to strengthen rural tourism has been developed.

A range of other future oriented policy approaches have been implemented recently. Working together with Invest Chile, the Invest Tourism initiative (Invierte Turismo), which maps tourism investment opportunities at regional level, was updated in 2019, has highlighted tourism investment opportunities throughout the country ( While a major CLP 1.5 million Strategic Plan for Human Capital has, drawn funding from various parts of Government with 16 specific goals delivered to upskill the workforce in 2019.

Work is also underway to develop a Digital Transformation and Innovation in Tourism Policy, building on the Transform Tourism (Transforma Turismo) programme, which is a public-private initiative with the following objectives:

  • Promote the uptake of new technology to increase industry competitiveness,

  • Encourage continuous improvement of the industry, its institutions and companies,

  • Incorporate digital know-how from other sectors into the tourism industry,

  • Ensure Chile is a regional leader in digital transformation in tourism.

Established in collaboration with the Chilean Economic Development Agency, as well as representatives of the private sector. This initiative has created a Tourism App for consumers, developed the Connect Tourism programme (Conecta Turismo) focusing on the digitalisation of the product across the entire country, and runs the Digitalise Your SME initiative (Digitaliza tu Pyme), which aims to encourages tourism SMEs to uptake digital technologies and train businesses in the many different aspects of digital marketing and management. The Government has also sought to deregulate existing laws to allow an easier route to register a new tourism business. It aims to benefit small companies, especially from local communities, indigenous people, local guides and other groups.

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