Monday,  January 25, 2021  11:34 pm

Travel pros get the Copa Airlines, Mendoza & Salta treatment in Toronto

Travel pros get the Copa Airlines, Mendoza & Salta treatment in Toronto
From left: Andres Höy, Tourism Chamber of Salta; Laura Diaz, Hotel Association of Mendoza; Estanislao Villanueva, secretary of tourism, Government of Salta; Maria Arrieta, deputy consul general & trade commissioner, Argentina; Laura Marin, Copa Airlines; Yolanda Molinuevo, Copa Airlines; Bernardo Gonzalez, Copa Airlines; Marina Milanesio, Mendoza Tourism Board; Rodrigo Lemos, Travel Agents Association of Mendoza.
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

“Every five seconds there is a tourist entering Argentina,” Maria Arrieta, deputy consul general and trade commissioner for Argentina, tells PAX.

Arrieta is referring to Argentina’s strong visitor numbers for 2019. According to the country’s latest stats, 4.3 million tourists arrived in Argentina in the first seven months of this year, representing almost a 10 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2018.

“We’re breaking a record,” Arrieta says.

Argentina’s growing popularity was one of many highlights shared with travel agents, tour operators and media last night (Sept. 12th) at Toronto’s Leña Restaurante, where Copa Airlines, in collaboration with the Consulate General of Argentina and delegates from the Argentine provinces of Mendoza and Salta, hosted an informative seminar on the South American destination.

The two-city mission, which started in Montreal, gave attendees an opportunity to sample Argentinian wine and gastronomy, and to learn more about Mendoza and Salta’s authentically-rich tourism offerings.

Wine tasting in Mendoza

A destination famous for its many wineries, the city of Mendoza is located in the northern-central part of Mendoza province on the eastern side of the Andes – the heart of Argentina’s wine country.

PICTURE PERFECT. The Andes Mountain Range in Mendoza. (Supplied photo)

Mendoza is one of Argentina’s most important wine regions as it’s home to more than 1,200 wineries (known as bodegas to locals) and is responsible for almost all of the wine produced in Argentina.

“Every winery is a different experience,” Marina Milanesio, director of tourism promotion for the Mendoza Tourism Board, told PAX, noting how many local wineries will open their doors to tourists.

Cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon and merlot are popular choices in Mendoza, but the region’s world-famous Malbec is what makes this picturesque destination popular.  

“Every winery is a different experience,” Marina Milanesio, director of TourismPromotion for the Mendoza Tourism Board. (Supplied photo))

Milanesio noted how Mendoza’s “incredible gastronomy” and infrastructure make it a popular destination for MICE tourism.

Mendoza, in addition to its vineyards, is also a hub for art deco buildings, cosmopolitan cafes and contemporary art.

Also in attendance was Rodrigo Lemos, a commercial representative of the Travel Agents Association of Mendoza, which represents some 50 agencies that provide expert tour guides who speak multiple languages.

Lemos described Mendoza as a “well-balanced” destination that offers everything from desert plains to snow-capped mountains.  

Beautiful Salta

Salta is the capital of its namesake province, located in the mountainous Lerma Valley at 1,152 metres above sea level in Argentina’s northwest.

Nicknamed Salta la Linda ("Salta the beautiful"), it is popular with tourists due to its eye-popping landscapes, colonial architecture and warm climate.

“The people of Salta are very polite and kind,” Estanislao Villanueva, secretary of tourism of the Government of Salta, told PAX. “It’s a colourful province that you’ll fall in love with. You have a culture that’s alive in our streets.

Located in Salta is the Museum of High Altitude Archaeology, a museum that houses the Mummies of Llullaillaco and other exhibits in a stunning 19th-century building.

Visitors can also ride “one of the most amazing trains in the world,” Villanueva said, referring to Tren a las Nubes (“Train to the Clouds”), a railway route that connects the Argentine Northwest with the Chilean border in the Andes mountains.

Tren a las Nubes (“Train to the Clouds”), a railway route that connects the Argentine Northwest with the Chilean border in the Andes. (Supplied photo)

The ride climbs 4,220 metres above sea level, making it the fifth highest railway in the world.

“You can touch the sky with your hands. It’s an amazing experience,” Villanueva told PAX.

Andres Höy, a commercial representative of the Tourism Chamber of Salta, said Salta offers tourists a variety of contrasting experiences, from its memorable landscapes (such as the Calchaquí Valleys) to its range of wineries.  

Salta city. (Supplied photo)

Höy emphasized the region’s passion for tradition and how Salta’s live folk music scene is particularly interesting.

Canadian arrivals are up

More and more Canadians are falling in love with Argentina.

According to the country’s latest visitors figures, more than 60,000 Canadians visited Argentina in 2018 and in the first seven months of 2019, 46,000 visitors from Canada arrived to Argentina (17 per cent more than the same period of 2018) .

Affordability is one factor driving tourism in light of the recent devaluation of the Argentine peso (meaning, tourists can enjoy hotels, dining and local culture at competitively affordable prices).   

Visitors from Canada with Canadian passports are not only exempt from purchasing a tourism visa but also, since January 2018, no longer need to pay reciprocity fees when entering the country.

Getting there

Copa Airlines offers service to Argentina from Toronto (five times weekly) and Montreal (four times weekly) to Panama City with seamless connections to five key destinations in Argentina: Mendoza, Salta, Rosario, Cordoba and Buenos Aires.

Copa’s on-time performance, notably, has been widely celebrated – London-based air travel intelligence company OAG recently recognized the airline as “The World’s Most On-Time Airline” while FlightStats recognized Copa as “Latin America’s Most On-Time Airline” for the sixth year in a row; both titles are based on Copa's on-time performance in 2018.

When connecting to Argentina in Panama City, the “hub of the Americas,” Copa passengers can expect a quick transfer from gate to gate, as the average connection time is one hour, noted Laura Marin, a sales manager for Canada at Copa Airlines.

Laura Marin, sales manager for Canada at Copa Airlines.

“Our service is extremely reliable,” Marin said, noting how Argentina-bound passengers do not have to go through customs in Panama when connecting on the same day and how all luggage is delivered directly to their final destination.

Flying Copa Airlines is an authentic way to start an adventure to Argentina. “From the moment you board, you get the Latin experience,” Marin told PAX, referring to Copa’s airline attendants and how they all speak Spanish, among other languages (English included).  

Copa’s service offerings include complimentary hot meals and alcoholic beverages, a 12-channel audio-visual entertainment system in English (with new movies added monthly) and complimentary headsets.

“If you’ve had a stressful day, you can have a glass of wine and just relax,” Marin said.

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