Mr. Leonardo Boto was recently in India for the SATTE workshop. Namaste Argentina caught up with Mr. Boto to find out what are his plans for the Indian market for the near future.
With a distinguished career in tourism, promotion and civil service, Leonardo Boto now serves as Chairman of the National Institute of Tourist Promotion in Argentina.
Born in Buenos Aires, Boto completed his undergraduate education at the University of Salvador of Argentina earning a degree in Geography as well as a Master’s degree in Public Policy and Administration from the University Of San Andres Argentina. Mr. Boto also attended the University of Montana in the United States where his studies were concentrated in a specialized program for Wildlife Recreation Management.
For more than a decade, Mr.Boto has been active in the tourism industry of Argentina working for the National Commission of Tourist Security and holding such posts as Director of the Program of Tourism for the October Foundation and more recently, National Director of Management for Tourist Quality at the Ministry of Tourism of Argentina.
In 2009, Leonardo Boto successfully coordinated the Dakar Rally in Argentina and Chile marking the inaugural occasion for the world’s most popular Rally race debut in Latin America.
Namaste Argentina (NA): Is this your first visit to India?
Leonardo Boto: Yes indeed this is the first visit of the Argentina Tourism Board in India and we have attended SATTE in Delhi before coming to Mumbai. As part of creating awareness, we organized an Argentina evening which was widely attended by members of the tourism fraternity. As part of our first visit, we want to see the response after which we will make future plans for the Indian market for the years to come.
NA: So what were your impressions of India before you came and what are your impressions after you have landed here?
Leonardo Boto: India is a large nation with a very big market and a vibrant economy. There is a huge opportunity to tap the potential 300 million middle class who have high disposable income. More than 12 million people travel out of India each year and we find that there is a huge opportunity for us to tap the growing number of Indian outbound travelers, some of which would be definitely interested in visiting Argentina.
NA: Currently, from which countries do you get the maximum number of visitors to Argentina?
Leonardo Boto: We get 1.5 million visitors from Brazil every year, followed by Chile – 800,000 visitors and then the United States – 500,000 visitors, Western Europe – 200,000 and then from Italy, Germany, France and Great Britain from whom we get 120000. Thereafter, other South American countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru come to Argentina. The economy as well as tourism is growing in this region at a very rapid pace.
NA: Are you looking at just India or are you looking at the part of the BRICS* nations in terms of promotion?
Leonardo Boto: We are firstly looking at India as there is a vast difference in culture and language between India and China. For Indians they have many opportunities to visit South America as there is connectivity via South Africa, Qatar, UAE as well as Turkey. We expect the number of visitor arrivals to grow in the near future into Argentina.
NA: What according to you should be the average length of stay for an Indian visitor to have varied experiences in Argentina?
Leonardo Boto: As Argentina is a long way from India, most Indian visitors combine Argentina with neighboring countries such as Brazil, Peru, etc. Hence, a minimum of 15 days is a must out of a 3 weeks holiday to explore Argentina.
NA: Which are your preferred holiday destinations within Argentina?
Leonardo Boto: In winter, I like visiting Ushuaia – the southernmost city as I enjoy skiing and I go there each year for skiing. During summer, I like to visit the North West – Salta, Jujuy, Tucuman- it is a beautiful region out there.
NA: Are you focusing on promoting only leisure travel or any special interest travel as well?
Leonardo Boto: We are focusing on leisure and MICE*. Argentina offers excellent opportunities for the MICE segment. So we are keen on getting some MICE movements into Argentina as well.
NA: Argentina is primarily a ‘Beef Eating’ country and obviously the Indians are more on the vegetarian side. So how do you plan to change that perception to probably attract Indian visitors?
Leonardo Boto: Argentina is a huge country with a lot of diversity. Buenos Aires is a big city with over 20 million people and we have a wide variety of restaurants including Indian restaurants. In the rest of the country you can find different vegetarian restaurants. Our priority will be to work with agencies that can cater to the Indian palate in Argentina and in places like Patagonia too you can find vegetarian restaurants as well.
NA: What are your plans for the next 3 or 4 years?
Leonardo Boto: This visit of ours is to explore opportunities and we would chalk out a plan in the coming months on what segments to target for the future.
NA: Lastly what is your message to those who may plan to visit Argentina in the near future?
Leonardo Boto: Argentina is a beautiful country, it is an open country. It has a lot of night life. I know the Indians like night life. They will have very good opportunities to discover and experience great diversity – from vibrant city such as Buenos Aires to the glaciers in Patagonia and the wine country of Mendoza to stunning landscapes in North West and one of the amazing natural wonders in Iguazu Falls. Argentina has snow, glaciers, rainforests, falls, big cities, wine, the beef and lots more to discover. It is one country which offers the diversity of seven continents.
* BRICS = Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa
* MICE = Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions