Sightseeing in Santiago, Chile

Hoteliers of Torres del Paine National Park are considering the possibility of making the destination a Covid Free place

Translated by: Raul Silva M.

Photo by Marc Thunis on Unsplash
May, 2020.- That is the challenge that the Asociacion de Hoteles y Servicios Turisticos Torres del Paine wants to assume in order to position The Eighth Wonder of the World, idea that today gains relevance, when the World has been impacted by Covid-19, and contact between people is limited, making the tourism sector one of the most affected globally.

Although we know that the new normality in tourism is probably going to mean having to live with covid-19 for some more time, until a vaccine is found, the truth is that there are destinations which will be better prepared than others, For this reason, despite the fact that there will always be a risk of contracting the disease, the concept aims to implement the best protocols and standards worldwide, to guarantee tourists a safer trip in comparison to other places.

But to achieve this, we believe that it will be necessary to carry out a hard coordination work between the public and private sectors, which is why we call on all the actors involved to consider this challenge, to arrive prepared for the next 2020-2021 season.

Although natural sites such as Torres del Paine have an advantage, as they are spacious places, with clean air, away from the crowds of cities, we know that this will not be enough to see a revival of tourism in the region by the end of this year. That is why we are preparing for Torres del Paine to be recognized globally as one of the safest places for tourists, with the best standards and protocols.

There are international experiences which are exploring the “Covid Free” or “Covid Safe” concept. For example, the Madrid Hotel Business Association announced that it is working on making a common protocol so that all companies that comply with it can receive a “Covid Free Hotels” certificate. 

The government of Portugal also launched a few days ago the creation of the “Clean & Safe” recognition focused on encouraging the industry to follow health protocols to attract tourists.

As the Torres del Paine Hotel Association, we cannot lag behind, and we are already carrying out preliminary conversations in this regard, exploring what other countries are doing, what it means to be a Covid Free destination, the coordination level that should be generated with the public sector, and collecting information to see how the issue can be addressed at the regional level, since this kind of destinations are the ones that will become more relevant when the new normality of tourism arrives. 

Although we have seen that there is an interest from businessmen and regional tourism chambers to have the best security standards against Covid-19, we also know that in order to achieve this goal, it will be essential that there be a private public work, with the dream that Torres del Paine can not only be promoted as a Covid-19 free place, but perhaps the entire province, and why not even think of a “Magallanes Region Covid-Free”. But making this dream come true will depend on the level of support from the authorities and the resources allocated. 

This is why we call on the private sector, and public organizations such as Conaf (National Forest Corporation), Secretariats of Health, Economy and Finance, the Labor Directorate, Sernatur (Chile's National Tourism Service), Mayors and Councillors to consider this challenge, and analyze what protocols could be implemented, such as rapid tests for all people who enter the National Park, or even the entire region, as occurs in other countries where certain vaccines are required to enter.  

We must also consider that tourism is one of the driving forces of the regional economy, generating relevant jobs, so if we want to revive the local activity it is necessary to start taking measures soon.

All this taking into account that adventure tourism aims precisely at a segment characterized by taking risks, which is why they will be the first tourists who want to get out of the confinement of cities, to venture into nature. Naturally they will choose the best prepared destinations, because although there are risks when climbing, trekking, or horseback riding, all of these are mitigated with the appropriate safety equipment. Now the covid-19 is the new risk that adventure tourism must mitigate, complying with the highest standards and safety protocols worldwide.

In this context, and as an Association, we are in these months gathering information and advancing on the path of being one of the best prepared destinations. And although there has been talk of certificates at the international level, this is a subject that we have only recently analyzed in a preliminary way. But there is something that is already settled: coordination between the different actors will be key.