Tourism in the economy

Tourism in Chile has experienced a sustained increased in recent years and has become one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy.

It has been estimated that tourism is directly responsible for 3.4% of Chile’s GDP and 5.1% of employment. Tourism accounts for 4.4% of total exports and 32.6% of exports of services.

Inbound tourism has increased from 1.8 million in 2004 to more than 5.6 million in 2016. Annual growth between 2015 and 2016 amounted to 26%, with a further 20% anticipated in 2017. The main markets are Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru and the United States.

Domestic tourism flows have also been increasing, with 10% growth in the last four years to almost 29 million trips.

In 2016 domestic receipts accounted for an estimated USD 5.4 billion, while inbound tourism accounted for USD 3.1 billion (including visitors and international transport).

Tourism governance and funding

Tourism in Chile comes under the responsibility of the Under-Secretary for Tourism within the Ministry of Economy, Development and Tourism.

The Under-Secretary, is in charge of defining and implementing the national tourism policy and strategies. The Under-Secretary is supported in this role by the Ministerial Committee on Tourism, which advises the President of the Republic on matters of tourism, and the Consultative Council for Tourism Development, which advises and collaborates with the Ministerial Committee on national and international promotion policy. The Under-Secretary’s responsibility is to encourage the development of the sector, encourage investment, create jobs, reduce tourism seasonality and further the decentralization of tourism in the country.

The National Tourism Service (SERNATUR) has the responsibility of executing tourism policy and strategies.

Regional government together with the Regional Offices of the Tourism Service can promote and develop tourism-related activities in their respective regions. Tourism initiatives have to compete with other sectors for the regional budget.

The budget of the National Tourism Service is around USD 42.4 million in 2017 (up from USD 41.8 million in 2016).

The Under-Secretary for Tourism was provided in 2015 with a budget of USD 100 million for supporting short, medium and long term actions to implement the National Plan for Sustainable Tourism Development 2014-18. The operational budget for 2017 is around USD 13.9 million, an increase of nearly 50% over the 2015 budget.

Chile: Organisational chart of tourism bodies

Source: OECD, adapted from the Ministry of Economy, Development and Tourism, 2018.

Tourism policies and programmes

The key priorities and opportunities for tourism in Chile are identified in the National Plan for Sustainable Tourism Development 2014-18.

The main priorities are to promote sustainable development of the sector through actions in prioritised destinations, to increase recognition of tourism as an important economic sector and to improve the competitive position of Chile. Specific goals are to:

  • Develop new and innovative tourism experiences, considering cultural and identity elements,

  • Encourage more Chileans to travel, know and enjoy Chile, delivering both social and economic benefits (Box 1.17),

  • Capture more value from tourism, through actions to improve the offer and promotion in prioritised international markets,

  • Strengthen the sustainable development of destinations, from an integrated territorial approach that promotes the engagement of local and regional actors (Box 3.9).

The above goals are being addressed through the ten-year public-private Transforma Turismo programme. Its objective is to transform Chile into a sustainable, diverse and sophisticated international tourism destination, with a tourism offer based on its natural and cultural resources and achieving significant growth in the average value generated per tourist.

A diagnosis and Road Map for implementation of the programme was developed with the participation of a wide group of state entities, tourist entrepreneurs, academics and other tourism-related bodies. The programme has subsequently focused in the following two areas:

  • Improvement of five types of prioritised tourism experience in which Chile has comparative advantage: nature and adventure tourism (with emphasis on wild protected areas); astronomical tourism; wine tourism; indigenous tourism; and cultural, event and gastronomy tourism.

  • Development of tourist destinations, improving their management, sustainability and connection (with each other and with their environment), with the purpose of generating environments that give greater competitiveness to tourism products and companies that participate in the tourism value chain. It considers actions in ten selected destinations (among the 83 tourist destinations prioritized by the Under-Secretariat of Tourism in the National Plan).

According to the Tourism Law, the Under-Secretary can propose to the Committee of Ministers the declaration of Areas of Tourist Interest. These are territories that have special conditions for attracting tourists and that require conservation measures and integrated planning to promote investment by the private sector.

In 2016, Chile was recognised as the best adventure tourism destination in the world. This reflects the great potential of Chile’s natural resources and the work undertaken in the last three years around protected wilderness areas. Consideration is being given to the prioritisation of some National Parks or National Reserves for the development of sustainable tourism together with the surrounding communities. To date, a total of eight parks have been prioritised by the Committee of Ministers. However, the Action Plan prepared by the Under-Secretariat of Tourism, in conjunction with the National Forestry Corporation, includes actions in 20 Protected Areas of the State.

Statistical profile

Table 1. Chile: Domestic, inbound and outbound tourism

Table 2. Chile: Enterprises and employment in tourism

Table 3. Chile: Internal tourism consumption
Million CLP