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It’s now easier and cheaper to travel in Latin America

30 April, 2007

There has been good growth in travel to Latin America thanks to various factors, including increased number of low-cost airlines and facilities for hassle-free travel in many of the countries.

According to an article in The New York Times, even as the Latin American countries are looking to tourism for their economic growth, tour operators in the United States and Canada are offering exotic vacations to the south.

Till recently, traveling within Latin America – even in popular countries like Mexico – was a botheration, including hassles such as multiple plane changes and long bus rides on rough roads.

Things have changed very much now. An increase in the number of low-cost airlines in Brazil and Mexico, which account for 60% of the Latin America’s air traffic, has made flying around Latin America a lot easier.

In the last two years, five new low-cost carriers, including Click Mexicana, InterJet and Volaris, started service in Mexico, according to ALTA, the Latin American air transport association. The low-cost airlines GOL Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes, BRA and WebJet now account for over 40% of Brazil’s domestic market.

Alongside, some budget carriers from the United States have started expanding their services to Latin America. Spirit Airlines began service to San Jose, Costa Rica, on April 5, 2007, and it plans to fly to Guatemala City from Fort Lauderdale from May 10 and to Los Angeles on May 11. Spirit Airlines also has filed for service to Caracas, Venezuela, and to Lima and Chiclayo in Peru.

Also, there are new direct flights replacing connections that previously required stops or plane changes. For example, those planning sightseeing in Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city, and then reach the sands in Cancún, were required to stop in Mexico City. Now Click, a subsidiary of Mexicana Airlines, flies non-stop between Guadalajara and Cancún.

Like most low-cost carriers in the United States, the budget airlines of Latin America are generally of the no-frills type – offering a single class of seats, serving snacks instead of meals, and keeping costs down with low maintenance and high efficiency.

However, booking can be difficult if a traveler does not speak Spanish. Only a few airlines have agreements with companies like Worldspan and Sabre, which distribute fare information to United States travel agents or familiar discount websites like Expedia.

Since their business is primarily to cater to domestic travelers, few airlines offer their own websites in English or take American Express credit cards. Volaris, which offers flights to 14 destinations in Mexico including Cancún, Los Cabos and Morelia, is one of the few that does both.

Gol Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes, which serves 49 destinations in Brazil and also flies to Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile and Peru, also offers booking in English ( www.voegol.com.br ). Outside Brazil, it accepts only American Express cards, or cash at a ticket counter.




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