Both international tourism (which accounts for about 10 percent of Argentine exports) and domestic travel are significant factors in the economy. In the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States and Argentina’s own domestic instability, long-distance tourist traffic diminished, but visitors from neighboring countries soon appreciated the bargains that devaluation had wrought. Budget travelers soon streamed into a country that had been intolerably expensive for more than a decade, and more affluent long-distance travelers began to return in greater numbers than before.
In 2006, the most recent year for which full statistics are available, the number of foreign visitors exceeded 4.1 million, and tourism revenues for the year were about US$3.5 billion. Tourism employed 1 million Argentines directly and another half million indirectly, and tourism was the country’s biggest export earner after agriculture and petroleum.
In that year, most visitors came from other South American countries, mainly Chile (993,000), Paraguay (313,000), Uruguay (514,000), Brazil (559,000), and Bolivia (155,000). These figures can also be misleading, though, as many such visits involve weekend excursions or even short shopping trips across the border.
Visitors from the United States and Canada numbered 400,000, while those from Europe totaled 658,000. Long-distance visitors spent substantially more money on travel-related expenses such as accommodations, food, and transportation—while accounting for only 26 percent of visitors, the 1,058,000 North American and European travelers spent more than US$1.4 billion—nearly 45 percent of total tourism income. Their stays tended to be longer—about two weeks for U.S. citizens and nearly three weeks for Europeans—than those of visitors from neighboring countries, who averaged about a week.
As Argentina’s main gateway, Buenos Aires benefits more than any other locality from the tourist trade, with more than two million foreign visitors per annum. Many other visitors to the capital, of course, come from elsewhere in the country.