The Impacts of Chile’s Volcanic Eruption on Tourism and Local Development

Just over a year after volcanic eruptions in Iceland grounded flights and halted regional tourism, eruptions from volcanoes in Chile’s Puyehue-Cordon-Caulle ranges on the Chilean-Argentinean border are doing the same.

As we’re scheduled to travel very shortly to Argentina and Chile, this recent natural disaster has led me to think about the impacts the event has on local and vulnerable communities in the region.

The International Red Cross in its World Disaster Report, states that, direct economic losses from natural disasters in the last two decades amounted to US$629 billion. Chile is still recovering from the 2010 earthquake which slowed international travel and tourism to the country and had an impact on the economy.

Just as tourism can help boost development, natural disasters can threaten the development of the world’s poorest communities from loss of resources, massive casualties and loss of essential infrastructure. In major tourist regions like Patagonia, tourism wanes and surrounding communities feel the impact of the loss of tourism dollars to the region.

The tourism impacts from the Chilean volcanic ash are being felt from Australia to Argentina. The Argentinean city of Bariloche, in the foothills of the Andes, is one of the worst hit by the volcano’s ash debrit.

Domestic and economic tourism is the central economic activity of Bariloche, especially in the winter months. The city is only 100 km away from the volcano and now covered in inches of ash. Its popular ski resort, Cerro Catedral was due to open its ski season this week.

With airport closures in Buenos Aires and Bariloche, the volcanic plume will inevitably have a short-term impact on the local, and vital, tourism economy.

In Chile, the damage the ash has caused to the local environment is having a devastating affect the local tourism and agricultural industries. The Río Nilahue, which brings sport fishing tourism to the area, has been severely polluted and already killed more than 4 million fish.

Chile’s National Tourism service is already in the midst of preparing a tourism campaign to help the local tourism and agriculture industries recover.

Tourism may be the vital link to help affected communities, like those in Bariloche, recover from natural disasters and lessen the blow to local development. In the case of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, tourism rebounded much quicker than expected from well-intentioned eager to support affected communities.

Tourists and travellers need to be wary of natural disasters and weather patterns that could compromise their travel plans, and more importantly their safety, but once the dust has settled (excuse the pun) these regions need tourism more than ever to help rebuild local and domestic economies.

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  1. […] trip started with a bang, or should I say and eruption. Three weeks before we were due to travel a volcano erupted in Chile near the border of Argentina. With fingers, toes and eyes crossed we hoped that […]



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  • Natasha Malinda from Melbourne, Australia
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