There is no shortage of good news about destination Buenos Aires, known to us all as the birthplace of the tango. However, Gonzalo Robredo, president of the Buenos Aires Tourism Board, is quick to point out that the B.A. buzz nowadays is all about offering “the best of culture, gastronomy and entertainment in the entire region. Our guests enjoy a vibrant street art and street food scene, world-class opera, theater and museums, as well as great public gardens, extensive parks and riverside nature reserves.”
B.A.’s tourism president adds, “Of course, the tango is indeed our global icon, and we host the an annual ‘Tango Buenos Aires Festival,’ a city-wise celebration of all things tango, scheduled this year Aug. 8-21.”
During an interview with Recommend, Robredo said that Buenos Aires welcomed over 253,500 American tourists in 2018, and he looks to a 20 percent increase over the next two years, lured in part by the present better value for the dollar on the current exchange rate, and the waived 21 percent VAT charged by hotels for foreigners.
Additionally, he noted, that Buenos Aires is now even more accessible to U.S. travelers, with American Airlines now operating the first non-stop flights between Los Angeles and Buenos Aires with thrice-weekly service, following an earlier debut of United Airlines connecting Buenos Aires to Newark/New York with daily nonstop flights.
Among special interest markets, Robredo is particularly enthusiastic about the growth in incentive travel, backed by an inventory of four- and five-star hotels, as well as unique venues for special experiences; family travel, embracing a host of kid-friendly attractions indoors and out; and LGBT travel, booming since Argentina became (in 2010) the first Latin American country to recognize same-sex marriages. In fact, stepping out on Nov. 18 is the “National Gay Pride Parade,” covering 11 blocks starting from the Casa Rosada at Plaza de Mayo, moving along Avenida de Mayo to end at the National Congress building; this colorful event is equally famous for its parade parties that take place on the streets, and, of course, well through the night.
Following are some of the new (to me) attractions discovered on a recent visit that may be of interest to your clients:
• Street Art spreads its colorful murals in different corners of the city and is the superstar attraction of many walking tours. Two special picks providing focus and fresh insight into the modern street art movement are designed by Graffitimundo—a non-profit organization supporting B.A.’s urban art scene. I booked the 2-hour Street Art Walking Tour, covering the up-and-coming neighborhood of Colegiales and the hidden enclaves of Palermo Hollywood, and the Urban Art & Activism Tour, exploring the historic and industrial barrios of La Boca and Barracas.
• Biking B.A. is all the rage, inviting visitors to pedal around Palermo’s parks and on designated bike lanes. The city has expanded its 80-mile network of interconnected bike paths and installed a relatively new bike/share system. (Sunday street art bike outings, offered by a few local operators, are considered the Holy Grail of biking tours.)
• Gaucho cowboys make themselves at home on the range in Argentina. Yet once a week, they ride into town for the Feria de Matadores with their displays of horsemanship, handicrafts, and lots and lots of empanadas. Held in the Matadores neighborhood, the fair also mixes in local Portenos and migrant workers from Bolivia and Paraguay to produce a colorful combination of customs, folk dancing and artwork. Along four blocks you find stalls full of good buys, from leather goods to stone and silver jewelry. Sunday is Fair Day April to December; January to March, it’s a Saturday evening event, starting at 6 p.m.
• Cafes and Confiterias cater to local customs of coffee in the morning and afternoon high tea, often also offering meal menus. Sample one or more that fall into a small group of cafes dating back to the 19th century and declared sites of cultural interest. Among them: Confiteria Las Violetas, opened in 1884, fitted out with stained glass windows, Italian marble floors and waiters in white gloves serving up afternoon tea and sweets starring chocolate and pastry cream; Cafe La Biela, located next to La Recoleta cemetery, once a popular hangout for racing car champions, while more recently the likes of Francis Ford Coppola and Robert Duval have dropped by for wine and tapas or rich pastries with their tea; often hard-to-get-into for coffee, a snack, or twice-nightly tango shows, Cafe Tortoni, founded in 1858 and wonderfully appointed with stained-glass ceilings and Tiffany lamps, it was a hangout for literary great Jorge Luis Borges and tango singer Carlos Gardel.
• La Rural is Argentina’s biggest country fair and one of the most important agriculture and livestock fairs in the world. It’s a 2-week event that has been held every July since 1886; this year’s dates are July 24 to Aug. 4. La Rural is hosted at its belle epoque showground (1/2 million sq. feet) and exhibition center, spread over six pavilions and hosting hundreds of stands and thousands of animals (mostly cattle): all told 4,500 animal exhibitors in 2018. Events include competition in various animal and agricultural categories, plus displays of acrobatic gaucho skills. Consider this a spectacle for all the family to enjoy.
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