Monday, March 17, 2008

The Communications Challenge for Argentina

My wife decided that she wanted to go to Argentina to celebrate a special birthday. Why Argentina? I thought. What did I know about Argentina? What did anyone know about Argentina? Why not Paris? Or St. Barts? Or even Costa Rica?

Admittedly, I had heard good things about Buenos Aires - that it was a charming city, worth seeing. But when I queried friends and acquaintances about Argentina, I usually got a blank stare along with "No, never been there, never thought about it and never really considered it. What's there?"

For all intents and purposes Argentina is a secret in this country.

Having just returned from Argentina and now knowing it is the eighth biggest country in the world - and certainly one of the most beautiful - I believe Argentina is in serious need of a public relations campaign in the U.S. Obviously, Americans do not know what they are missing, because Argentina has not proudly showcased its spectacular scenic vistas in a campaign that would bring flocks of Americans to its shores. In fact, it was the Brazilians we met in Argentina who were the most vocal when it came to singing Argentina's praises.

The graceful city of Buenos Aires with its many parks dotting the concrete landscapes; venerable European buildings mixed with magnificent skyscrapers; the tango, which pervades the city through its clubs and sometimes even the streets; Iguazu Falls, one of the seven forgotten Wonders of the World which makes Niagara Falls seem like a modest dribble; and Bariloche, the magnificent scenery mecca where the Andes Mountains join with other Argentinean mountains and seven lakes to create the lushest scenery I have ever seen. Our guide said, "The Swiss come to Bariloche to take pictures and then put them on their postcards and call it Switzerland."

And then there are the people who are warm and friendly. It is summer there now, and the weather is perfect. Like New York, Buenos Aires has many distinctive neighborhoods that make it a wonderful city to walk through. I had a chance to brush up on my Spanish, and every day it got better. We saw the Eva Peron Museum which gave us a chance to see how she is portrayed in Argentina - as a heroine - compared with her unflattering portrayal in the movie (unpopular in Argentina), "Evita."

Yes, and one thing I forgot which could be a lure for anyone: Argentine ice cream. It's better than gelato, most likely because there are many flavors with dulce de leche in them. The consistency and taste make the ice cream both a habit-forming self-indulgence and a tourist magnet. Of course, there are also the famous beef ("the best in the world") and top-notch wines.

What's more, Americans also ought to know that Argentina is a place where
our dollar goes far!

As if Argentina doesn't already have an embarrassment of natural riches to
talk about, there's also the easy trip to Antarctica, which could be the basis of an exceptional story about this spectacular destination.

According to Argentina's National Institute of Statistics and Census (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos), foreign tourism was up 22% in the first quarter of 2006 over the same period a year earlier. The majority of these tourists (31%) came from Europe. Fewer than one in five - about 108,000 - came from North America.

I think it would be a cinch to promote the story of Argentina with the objective of increasing the number of North American tourists by 25%, to 135,000 a year ... attracting a total of 519 additional visitors there per week.

I would certainly go back again. So will others, once a solid communications program is put in play.


Technorati Tags: Argentina, Buenos Aires, public relations campaign, Brazilians, Iguazu Falls, Niagara Falls, Bariloche, Andes Mountains, Switzerland, Eva Peron, ice cream, Antarctica, business, communications, public relations

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