ARGENTINA | COUNTRY TO REIMBURSE VAT FOR FOREIGN TOURISTS

Good news for everyone planning a visit to Argentina!

 Argentine President Mauricio Macri has announced that foreign tourists will be reimbursed for the VAT on their hotel stays in the country, a measure which will be implemented with immediate effect. This policy had been requested by the tourism industry for more than 15 years, and is aimed at maintaining and advancing Argentina’s competitiveness in the industry.

VAT in Argentina is currently at 21%. This policy, which is now in place, will cost the state US$37.7m (GB£30.28m), according to Minister of Tourism Gustavo Santos. It is hoped that, within a year of its implementation, an extra 95,000 tourists will visit the country, generating an extra US$70m (GB£56.22m).

Gonzalo Robredo, Executive Director of the Tourism Organisation of Buenos Aires, said: “We are expecting a great boost to tourism in Buenos Aires from this announcement. As well as being Argentina’s capital and one of the largest, most dynamic and diverse cities in Latin America, Buenos Aires offers a great range of high-end and boutique hotels which will be at the forefront of capitalising on this news.”

The Bill in favour of the measure emphasised the importance of tourism to the Argentine economy, and the need for “a simple, direct and automatic mechanism to reimburse VAT to foreign tourists, in order to improve the competitiveness of the Argentine tourism industry”. This will apply to accommodation and breakfast, when the latter was included as part of the accommodation package, and the reimbursement will take place immediately at the point of payment.

In order to qualify, payments must be made with a foreign credit or debit card. Tourists will need to provide name and surname, nationality, residency and passport or ID number. If the bookings are made by travel agencies or tour operators, these will need to provide this information on behalf of their clients.

This measure comes in light of similar policies implemented by other countries and reflects a growing understanding of the importance of tourism to the global economy, as well as a renewed drive by Argentina’s government to attract trade and investments from around the world.

 

BUENOS AIRES | TEN REASONS TO VISIT IN 2017

The list of reasons to visit Argentina’s capital is a long one. Put simply, Buenos Aires is one of the most attractive cities of Latin America, voted best tourist destination in South America by TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Awards in 2016. Below are just ten of the reasons you should visit Buenos Aires in 2017.

Free attractions: Buenos Aires is not only home to countless places of architectural, historic and cultural interest to discover while wandering its winding streets and green spaces, it also offers a wide range of activities. Guided tours come in the traditional and more adventurous varieties, giving you the opportunity to run, trek or even row your way around a city full of secrets, emotions and stories without paying a penny.

Food for all tastes: Traditional porteña cuisine bears the legacy of the city’s Spanish and Italian influences and can be enjoyed on every corner. In particular, don’t miss the gastronomic hubs of Palermo, Las Cañitas, Recoleta, San Telmo and Puerto Madero, where you can sample traditional Argentine roast meats of the highest quality. Equally, Buenos Aires offers flavours from around the world, with a wide variety of eateries offering the local cuisine of many different countries. The city’s organic markets and fairs, such as the BA Market, also boast a wealth of tasty offerings.

A sustainable city: Buenos Aires considers itself an environmentally conscious city and seeks to improve the quality of life of residents and visitors alike through innovations in urban design and the promotion of a healthy lifestyle. With many parks, squares and green spaces, the city provides the perfect surroundings to enjoy nature, play sports and relax in the open air. Bike lanes and guided bike tours also make it possible to travel the city on two wheels.

Boca-River championship: Football is a passion shared by most Argentinians and if you visit Buenos Aires during the local championship you will have the chance to witness one of the most exciting sporting events: the Superclásico. The match takes place between Argentina’s two most popular clubs, River and Boca, and has been described by The Observer and The Sun as “the most intense sporting experience in the world”.

Gardel, Piazzolla and the Tango: Sensual and nostalgic, the tango is part of the porteña identity. If you want to dance, head to a local ‘milonga’, traditional places to dance the Tango which can be found across the city, or to one of the many ‘tanguerías’ featuring live orchestras and dancers. Known as the world’s Tango capital, Buenos Aires is home to renowned musicians Carlos Gardel and Astor Piazzolla.

Over 300 theatres: Its wide offering of shows makes Buenos Aires South America’s most prolific city for theatre, putting it in fourth place globally for number of theatres. Among its more than 300 theatres is the Colón, one of the most important lyric theatres in the world and a beacon of opera, ballet and performing arts for over a century.

Shopping: Shopping is one of the favourite activities for visitors to Buenos Aires thanks to its first class shopping centres and fashion shows in Palermo Soho, Santa Fe Avenue and the traditional shopping street of Florida. For those seeking low prices, the outlet stores on Córdoba or Aguirre are an excellent option.

Porteña nightlife: Buenos Aires is a city that never sleeps and its exciting nightlife boasts no end of restaurants, bars and discotecas for meeting new people and having fun. To be right at the heart of the action, head to Palermo, San Telmo and Puerto Madero. Buenos Aires is also one of South America’s top tourist destinations for the international LGBT community.

Pope Francisco: Buenos Aires is the perfect location to discover the life and work of the Pope Francisco, or the ‘Papa de Flores’ as they call him in his native neighbourhood. Those wanting to visit notable places in his life can follow the Papal Tour through the districts of Flores, Monserrat and Balvanera, as well as the Catedral Metropolitana, where he officiated at mass for more than 20 years.

Feel at home: Diverse, extreme, welcoming, Buenos Aires is an excellent host, receiving visitors from around the world and making them feel at home. Its people, its attractions, its food and its music are the product of all who visit and make it the cosmopolitan yet familiar city that it is today. Buenos Aires is a thousand cities in one city.

Sound like your kind of city? To find out more, head over to www.turismo.buenosaires.gob.ar

COYA MAYFAIR SCREENING | THE ROLLING STONES OLÉ OLÉ OLÉ! A TRIP ACROSS LATIN AMERICA

The Rolling Stones’ influence on Britain’s cultural landscape is well documented. Bursting onto the music scene in the 60s, the group represented and inspired the rise of the rebellious youth counterculture and accompanied the Beatles in leading the ‘British Invasion’ of the US scene. A lesser known aspect of the Stones’ influence, however, is the following they inspired in Latin America.

 

Last week Branding Latin America was thrilled to organize a VIP screening of The Rolling Stones Olé Olé Olé! A Trip Across Latin America at COYA Mayfair. The event was the latest in a long line of collaborations with the Peruvian restaurant and member’s club, which is dedicated to promoting the best of Latin American culture in London. Produced by Eagle Rock Entertainment, the feature documentary follows the Stones’ tour of 10 Latin American cities in early 2016. An exclusive group of private members and embassy and press representatives were invited to participate in a Q&A session with Peter Worsley, Managing Director, Digital, Theatrical and Production at Eagle Rock Films.

Culminating in their historic gig in Havana, the film, which has also been aired on Channel 4, reveals the unique relationship between the Stones and their Latin American fans. Featuring intimate interviews with band members, we see the revolutionary impact the group has had on the subcultures of the region, where their music became a tool of social resistance in often oppressive political climates.

In one touching scene, we see Ronnie Wood painting with Brazilian artist Ivald Granato, with whom he has built up a relationship over several visits. Although the two do not share a common language, they connect easily and quite beautifully through their art, helped along by the occasional ‘I love you!’ from Granato, who promises to send the finished masterpiece to Wood’s home address. The eagle eyed will note that the feature is dedicated to the Brazilian, who died shortly after filming.

We also see the continuing passion of the Rolingas, an urban tribe of Stones fans who rose to prominence in 1980s Argentina, when groups inspired by Jagger et al began to emerge on to the country’s music scene. Visibly excited at the prospect of her heroes’ return to Buenos Aires, one Rolinga speaks of the pride she feels in this shared identity, which differentiates her from the mainstream and manifests itself in the distinctive Stones style of dress.

Most striking of all, however, is the impact of the free show in Cuba. Dubbed the ‘Concert for Amity’, the event did not come about without a struggle; it is fascinating to witness the negotiations necessary to stage what was undoubtedly an unprecedented move forward in diplomatic relations between Cuba and the capitalist West. After banning the Beatles in 1964 for their ‘American’ influence, Fidel Castro continued to resist the influence of rock and roll in the name of promoting Cuban music and national identity. Indeed, Ernesto Juan Castellanos, who organized a Beatles conference in Cuba in 2000, tells how imitation of artists like the Rolling Stones could easily result in trouble with the police. Despite, or perhaps because of such measures, the 1.2 million people who eventually attended the gig in March 2016 are testament to the significant following that the group inspired within Cuban counter culture. Indeed, the success of the landmark event suggests the desire of the Cuban population to open up to the rest of the world, a reality that now seems ever more possible following Castro’s recent passing.

Described by Ali Catterall of The Guardian as ‘A warm, uplifting road movie with soul’, it was an honour to be involved in the promotion of this iconic film.

 

With thanks to Eagle Rock Entertainment and COYA Mayfair, 118 Piccadilly, Mayfair, London, W1J 7NW, http://www.coyarestaurant.com/london

 

HIS MUCH WE KNOW | LESSONS FROM THE WORLD TRAVEL MARKET

With a full calendar of travel trade shows for the year ahead, we’ve been reminiscing on one of the biggest – London’s World Travel Market. With events such as ITB Berlin fast approaching, it seems a good idea to look back on the lessons learned in 2016 so that we can prepare for an even busier 2017. Read on for a heads up on global agreements, top destinations, and free food…

 

The World Travel Market is a firm fixture on our annual calendar and 2016 was no different. The 3 day extravaganza takes place in London at the beginning of November every year and is a chance for key actors from the travel sector to meet, greet and make things happen.

As usual, Branding Latin America were there in force at the most recent event, helping our clients make the most of interviews, meetings, press conferences and even a UN Summit. But even though we’re there every year, that doesn’t mean we don’t discover new things each time. Here’s what we learned in 2016:

 

Latin America is ready to work together

At a press conference of tourism ministers from various countries across Latin America , a broad consensus was reached on the need to work together to promote tourism across the region. While noone wants to encourage the perception of ‘Latin America’ as one country, it was promising to see recognition of the fact that exposure to a particular country can only increase interest in its neighbours.

 

Security is an important concern for the tourism sector, but not overly so

The increase of terrorist attacks targeting tourist hot spots has been a topic of much attention for politicians and the media in recent years. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation made security the central theme of its annual ministers’ summit, where tourism ministers gather to share their views on the current climate. Although some felt the tourism industry would take several years to overcome the impact of recent security concerns, many were cautiously optimistic in pointing to the number of travellers who refuse to have their options limited by the actions of a few.

 

Argentina has excellent food and even better wine

It’s not the only reason we work with this fabulous country, but we’d be lying if we said it wasn’t a factor. Obviously we couldn’t comment personally on the quality of the wine, as drinking on the job would be extremely unprofessional. But speaking for a friend, it was delicious. We also very much enjoyed the traditional snacks [detail], which attracted large crowds who certainly agreed with us.

 

Bolivian dancers may be the most popular

The vivid colours on display over at the Bolivian stand did not go unnoticed by passersby, many of whom couldn’t resist stopping for a quick picture with our professional dancers. Dressed in traditional costume, the quartet brought a taste of Carnaval to London with their impressive moves. Fair play to them also for smiling non-stop all day, the Bolivians must have cheeks of steel.

 

The ExCel Exhibition Centre is really, really far away

If you want the chance to sample all forms of transport offered by TFL, you should definitely drop by the WTM in 2017. I for one did not know that London stretched this far to the South East and managed to take the tube, overground and the DLR in one single journey. Depending on your starting point, it’s definitely possible to work in a bus and perhaps even a tram. If you want to make the most of your Oyster, the WTM is the one.

 

People will take anything if it’s free

Carnival mask? Check. Map of a country you’ll probably never go to? Check. A small but delicious glass of Cuban rum? Well, naturally. Seriously, though, I was amazed at what a room full of grown adults would do for a bag full of free items that they will presumably never use again. On the plus side, it is reassuring as an exhibitor to see the message you’ve had printed on a novelty pen promoted far and wide. Plus, the canny individual can save money to spend on travel to the destinations on offer by perusing free tasters instead of buying lunch. Ideal.

 

You will walk very far

The ExCel is not small. On one hand, ‘popping over to Argentina’ in this context simply means walking over to another stand in the same room. On the other hand, the room is enormous and anyone prone to over dramatization (ahem) could be forgiven for thinking that they are actually crossing national borders. This year we’ll be taking pedometers.

 

You can pretty much meet anyone…

… as long as they work in the travel sector. If they do, they’ll be at WTM. Guaranteed. Last year 50,000 people attended, making it one of the world’s biggest travel fairs. We wouldn’t miss it!

INTERVIEW | WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU TAKE YOUR DAD TO LATIN AMERICA

Latin America has long been touted as a popular destination for ‘millennials’, whoever they may be. Mesmerising scenery, eclectic cultures and fabulously low prices have led the region to become known as something of a backpackers’ paradise. But what about everyone else? Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not just young people who can have the trip of a life time on this unique continent – the proliferation of high class hotels and tours means that more established travellers can enjoy luxury experiences that would be simply unaffordable in Europe. With this in mind, our Digital Manager Sarah Mann, who spent 2015 living in Bolivia, invited her Dad to share his experiences of travelling through Bolivia, Peru and Colombia.

 

What were your first thoughts when I told you I was going to Bolivia?

My first thoughts were that it was a country I didn’t know anything about at all! I had no idea what it would be like to live there, what amenities you would have access to, whether it was safe. As I found out more, though, I thought it sounded really, really interesting.

 

Why was that?

I suppose it felt quite remote and off the beaten track – a real adventure. The culture looked so different and unknown. Bolivia isn’t a country that gets much attention over here for current affairs or travel.

 

Would you have ever travelled to South America if I wasn’t there?

Probably not. I wouldn’t have had the confidence! I don’t speak Spanish and it seemed difficult to plan a trip there as Bolivians don’t put as much travel information online as we do over here.

 

What did you friends think when you told them where you were going?

They thought I was pretty adventurous. So did I!  If you hadn’t already been there we might have been quite nervous about what to expect, but to be honest we never felt unsafe at any point during the trip. I watched my stuff in busy places, but that’s the same anywhere. I don’t know how the ‘danger’ stereotype has persisted for so long because the reality is mostly the complete opposite.

 

It would be fair to say your Spanish is fairly ‘rustic’. How did you find navigating Peru, Bolivia and Colombia armed only with the ability to ask for two beers and count to a hundred?

First off, I’d like to say that learning 100 numbers is pretty impressive. But I found it much easier than I had expected. Not many people speak English in the less touristy locations, but learning just a handful of words and phrases for shops and restaurants was absolutely fine. Everyone was really receptive to body language though – your mother even managed to haggle with a taxi driver!

 

How did you decide where to visit and how far ahead did you plan your trip?

Well, we wanted to walk the Inca Trail. It was something we’d read about and we’d known people who had done it – it looked like an iconic, mystical walk, a challenge but a real one off experience. And you do need to book that several months in advance, so the rest of our research was based around that. I used Lonely Planet a lot and travel connections were a big factor in choosing where to go. I think what puts a lot of people off is the lack of travel information online, such as not being able to book long distance buses. Once you arrive, you realise that there will be no problem catching the bus, but it’s so different to over here that it seems like a big risk to take when you only have a couple of weeks to do the trip.

 

How did it differ from your more regular trips to Europe?

We learned to be much more flexible! Buses won’t turn up when they say they will, but they will turn up at some point and once you accept that and learn to just go with it there’s no problems. In fact, I personally benefited from the lack of fixed schedule when I broke my tooth on a Saturday night on a stray piece of seafood shell. The dentist came out on a Sunday morning especially to fix it!

Also, the hotels were excellent value for money. It’s not just hostel dorms crammed with backpackers – we stayed at some really high quality places for far cheaper than we ever could in Europe.

 

Many people are put off by the idea that Latin America ‘too dangerous’ – congratulations for surviving. How did you do it? 

Thank you. But despite what I read in the guidebooks, I never felt unsafe during our trip. It didn’t feel so different to Europe and we took no more precautions than we would take on holiday anywhere in the world. As always, there are certain areas to avoid, but I’d definitely recommend others to take the usual stereotype with a hefty pinch of salt. Go see for yourselves!