BUENOS AIRES — In these days of recession, everyone likes free stuff — even those fortunate enough to be able to splurge on an international vacation.
Buenos Aires native Gaston Cernadas and his partners started "BA Free Tour" in September 2008, just in time for the global economic downturn. Cernadas was inspired by the popular "New Europe," a tip-based walking tour company in nine European and Israeli cities. The concept has been hailed by international media as "recession-beating tourism."
According to the United Nations' World Tourism Organization, international tourism declined steeply at the end of 2008 under global economic pressures. But as the UNWTO hastens to add, less expensive destinations — those with good dollar value and favorable exchange rates — are becoming more attractive.
Argentina is a prime example. Since its 2001 economic crash, tourists have been drawn in droves by Argentina's cheap peso and the rich culture to be had for low prices. The tourism industry became instrumental to the rehabilitation of the Argentine economy.
Like the rest of the world, Argentina has seen a tourism slowdown in recent months, though not as much as other, more expensive countries. According to the latest numbers posted by the Argentine government and the city of Buenos Aires, international tourism increased 5 percent overall in 2008, handily beating the global growth of 2 percent.
But the tourists that do come are spending less, say economists — so visitors love the free tours that provide a peek into the historical ups and downs of a country that has seen many of them.
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