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With its neighbour Brazil hosting the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games, Argentina’s tourism sector will need to work hard to stand out. Martine Ainsworth-Wells considers the country’s options.
Argentina’s next-door neighbour, Brazil, is about to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games and is undoubtedly going to be the focus of global media attention for the next three years. When it comes to ensuring its own tourism offerings remain attractive, Argentina has three choices: (a) to align itself with Brazil and hope that the rest of the world thinks Latin America is just one big country and that some of the positive haze and awareness will rub off; (b) hide in the shadows until all the noise is over; (c) distinguish itself from Brazil’s associations with sport, carnival and samba and establish a different brand identity.
But which is the best option? I asked members of Argentina’s tourism industry the following question: “Is the fact that Brazil is hosting the World Cup and the Olympic Games a good or bad thing for Argentina?” “A good thing” was the resounding answer. I was surprised by the response but the consensus seems to be that a spotlight on Brazil is a spotlight on Latin America, and that the forthcoming events can only raise awareness and interest in the whole region.
It’s a nice theory but I don’t think the media will focus on anything but Brazil, especially during the World Cup. That’s where the stories the world is focused on will be taking place.
I was also interested to hear if the industry thought it would reap benefits before, during or after the sporting events. The feeling is that any increase in visitor numbers would come before or after the events, but not during. They hope that as awareness of the region grows it will stimulate greater demand for pan-Latin American tours.
They are right to recognise that Games-time is not a time when visitors to the World Cup or Olympics will head south of Brazil for a holiday. A few people may take the opportunity to extend their stay while in the region, but as ticket holders for the Olympics and World Cup will largely be Brazilian, this doesn’t offer a big opportunity for Argentina. I am also unconvinced that they will receive an influx of visitors before the Games as a result of visitors booking cross-country tours including Brazil.
With the exception of London, the pattern of previous Games-time visitor flows shows that visitors tend to avoid the host country in the lead up to the sporting event for fear of construction work, disruption and increased expense. Tourists drawn to the events are unlikely to travel to the region far in advance of their commencement. However, Argentina might benefit from a flow of international travellers who have chosen to avoid Brazil in the lead up to the Games. It might also be able to lure Brazilians who are apathetic about the events. Having never met a Brazilian that isn’t passionate about sport, this will be a tough challenge, but it’s worth a go.
Instead Argentina could take cover and just wait for it all to blow over. A valid option if you are not convinced that the events will be well run and well received by the world. However, FIFA and the IOC make sure that their brands are well protected and take great efforts to ensure that the Games are delivered on time and to an appropriate standard. Some may be perceived as better than others but, generally speaking, Olympic Games and World Cup tournaments don’t fail – there is too much at stake.
So the final option Argentina has is to use Brazil’s status as a sporting nation to carve out a different and defined image for itself while at the same time hoping that it can cut through the noise that is being created by its neighbour. That would be my recommendation. I would not rely on a global spotlight being waved across the whole of Latin America. If this happens, it’s a bonus.
I would dedicate all my time and effort to making sure that Argentina’s brand was clear and articulate in those markets offering the best potential visitor numbers. Argentina has an amazing offer. While Buenos Aires resembles any European city, its countryside and unique captivating landscapes do not. The wine country of Mendoza is every bit as stunning as Napa or Bordeaux; Patagonia is breathtaking.
Brazil’s hosting of the World Cup and Olympics might well be Argentina’s biggest opportunity. With a year to go before the World Cup begins, they have time to take action and it won’t be to Brazil’s detriment either. The continent has plenty to offer everyone. If Argentina can establish its brand articulately, we will all discover enduring reasons to visit that don’t hinge on the occurrence of huge one-off events.
Martine Ainsworth Wells was the marketing and communications director for London & Partners before and during the Games period. She is now the director of agency Ainsworth & Wells, which advises on and implements promotional activities and strategies for international and domestic destinations. Follow her @MartineAWells .