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An interview with Alejandra Medina Ayrer, ART&TUR’s partner in South America

Alejandra Medina Ayrer and PROMPERU‘s representative, Bernardo Muñoz Angosto, at ART&TUR 2018

Alejandra Medina Ayrer is a specialist in marketing and communications, founder and director of AMA Comunicaciones, in Chile. She is also a content consultant for the television program Recomiendo Chile and Recomiendo América and a specialist in cultural travel, having worked in destination management in Chile, Turkey, Uruguay, Costa Rica among other countries. Alejandra has been an ART&TUR juror since 2015.

In this interview, Alejandra reveals some details about her partnership with ART&TUR, while also giving some insights into the current situation of tourism in South America, and in Chile, in particular, and her hopes and expectations for the industry in the years to come.

Welcome Alejandra and thank you for accepting our invitation to be interviewed.

A: Thank you very much for inviting me, it is a pleasure to participate. ART&TUR is a project in which I have been involved for several years and that has opened my eyes to multiple experiences, other cultures and the management of tourism in recent years.

Alejandra, what interests you about tourism promotion?

A: I have been working for many years in the tourism industry, which has obviously taken a terrible blow over the last year, in particular when it comes to outbound tourism in Chile. I started travelling to many destinations and as I got to know them, I became enchanted by them. This happened to me with Portugal. With all the destinations I have worked with, I have travelled first, and then worked together with the embassies. The embassy representations in Chile and the tourism departments of each country have asked me to promote them in Chile and then to expand to other nearby countries. Portugal, as I said, was one of my loves and continues to be to this day.

The partnership between AMA Comunicaciones and ART&TUR has significantly increased the awareness of the Festival in South American countries. Despite this, the level of participation from these countries remains relatively modest. Given that, how  would you characterize the investment of South American countries in the audiovisual promotion of tourism?

A: The truth is, that many of the Latin American countries that should have a greater presence in tourism film festivals – this was the reality of a year and a half ago – had a continuous tourist flow and sufficient mass of visitors. They considered in some way that they did not require other types of resources to show their natural attractions. We must also take into account that for Europe we are long-distance tourism and Latin America was very well nourished by its internal visitors between countries.

The second reason, I believe, has to do with the fact that tourism film festivals are usually presented in English, which is not one of the most used languages on our continent. There is low use of the English language and therefore dealing with the interactions with the subtitles of the films and some technical details may have been a difficulty. We are more than just in a Post-COVID period. We are rather in a trajectory of recovering from this difficult year and a half, through promotional efforts that I think will be quite welcome, since Latin American destinations have suffered a lot with the decrease of visitors. They thus need to promote themselves differently, so we hope that this year the investment will increase and that by 2022 the presence in Latin America will be much stronger.

What actions did the tourism authorities in Chile take to best manage the situation during the pandemic?

A: We were heavily impacted since Chile is a vast country, that extends for more than 5000 km, characterized by a displacement between the different regions, which makes it more complex. Since we had such a strict quarantine period, internal tourism was strongly affected. The policy of the National Tourism Service of Chile was to promote short-distance tourism, internal tourism and rural tourism as dissemination tools of diffusion. However, although the internal promotion policy has been very good in terms of the quality of the communication, the quarantines have made it very difficult to spur the interest in internal tourism.

Now we can begin to feel optimistic. The lockdowns are ending in several regions and we believe that pandemic related issues will start to be better managed. On the other hand, countries around us are all in a very complex situation. Argentina has a very difficult situation at a sanitary and social level. Bolivia and Peru more on a sanitary level. Not to mention Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia. I believe that the only countries where Chileans can travel safely, at this time, is Uruguay and part of Paraguay. So we continue with an internal tourism campaign, quite focused on rural tourism, which was not very visible until this point.

It is somehow evident that Chilean Authorities were able to act quickly. Many people have already been vaccinated, so it could be said that the vaccination plan has been much more effective than in other South American countries.

A: Correct, the vaccination plan and the implementation of sanitary measures in Chile, although hard, has been very efficient and there is already a very high percentage of the population that has already been vaccinated. I believe that of the 18 million Chileans we are close to 10 million vaccinated. The goal is that in July, 100% of the risk population will be vaccinated. The operations and the logistics in such a large country as I was saying has been very efficient, thank God.

In these troubled times of Covid-19 and climate emergency, what advice would you give to young tourism students and future entrepreneurs who want to invest in the tourism industry?

A: Tourism is the soul of the people and has a cultural mission that will not perish over time. Today destinations increasingly need to disseminate and promote their attractions, therefore tourism students are undoubtedly fundamental actors in the knowledge of their territory and its dissemination. Although the industry is going through a difficult time, it will be one of the first industries to recover worldwide. It has become clearer than ever that tourism is tremendously important economic engine. What I would recommend to the students of tourism, is that they have to start to look at other forms of tourism. Cultural, rural, food and wine tourism are reaching levels that in the past were not taken into account because, mass tourism, sun and beach tourism, leisure tourism, were dominant. Tourism students did not have great participation other than as the future workforce. Today, the ability of young people to investigate and connect with their environment is of tremendous value for the industry.

It is important to highlight, as you were explaining that tourism before was more focused on mass tourism, today there are more tourism niches, and the market is adapting to the needs of tourists. Given that, in your experience of managing niche tourism, how do you think this part of the tourism industry has been affected during the pandemic?

A: Well, in Chile, in particular, we could call niche to small groups, normally families with a small number of people who are looking to be close to nature and value sustainable tourism. I would say that perhaps, this niche tourism is going to achieve its greatest development, followed by gastronomy and culture. Those are the Three niches that Chile is focusing on, with a foreign policy anchored on premises such as a natural Chile, a safe Chile, a Chile where nature is respected and where sustainability and the environment are the great protagonists in recent years. I would say that those are the niches where we have focused on and where the industry will certainly be focusing in the next two or three years.

As a member of the ART&TUR Festival jury since 2015, how would you characterize this six-year relationship? And what learning benefits have favoured this it?

A: Well, the truth is that my relationship with ART&TUR started precisely because of my relationship with AIECEP and the Portuguese embassy in Chile. From the very first moment, I was very interested in learning from the perspective of filmmakers, both documentary and video makers about their territories and about the most efficient way to sell a tourism product. The learning has been enormous because the evolution of tourism cinema has been tremendous. We have gone from showing places to conveying experiences and every year the festival has new experiences to show, namely through ART&FACTORY. For me, it has been an enormous discovery to see how with few technical resources you can achieve great cinematographic pieces.

Personally, sharing experiences with the rest of the jurors, that come from so many different places, has opened my mind about this idea of a universal soul of tourism that involves the different realities of tourism. At first, everything seems so distant but after talking about it and experiencing it, we arrive at a universal reality. For me, that has been a tremendously powerful experience of great learning, so I am very, very happy to have been linked to the festival and to be able to work together. It has really been a very powerful life and professional experience.

Thank you for your words. It is also very important for us to know how you have felt working with ART&TUR during this time.

A: I feel very comfortable. The fact that the festival has also had the confidence in me and in AMA Comunicaciones to promote it in Latin America, has been for me the greatest prize. To be able to take other Latin American countries to different festivals is one of my greatest challenges and one of my main achievements, so I hope that we will grow Latin America presence in ART&TUR.

I think that ART&TUR, unlike other festivals that I have participated in, has a very relevant characteristic which is to involve the academic part in all its activities. The presence of students and professors of tourism at the festival, the presence of great academics and researchers, for me, gives a very special value to the festival. I think that despite the difficulties of not being able to be physically present in Portugal for the last year and a half, has perhaps been a loss in terms of the volume of participation. However, I believe, and I am absolutely optimistic, that this October there will be greater participation and a greater presence, and I would like to wish all the team that is working intensely on the production of the festival the best.

My special greetings from the most southerncorner of the world!

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