Despite experiencing an 8.8 quake in the early morning hours of Feb. 27, Chile’s tourism infrastructure has suffered little overall damage, and the extreme northern and southern regions of Chile (the Desert and Patagonia regions) were not affected by the quake at all. Easter Island, which lies 2,300 miles off the coast of mainland Chile, also was unaffected by the quake or any tsunamis, which was an initial concern.
The passenger terminal of Santiago’s airport experienced some structural damage, but the runways were unaffected. The airport is expected to reopen this week. Electricity, phone lines and public transportation already have been restored. Valparaiso and Vina del Mar reported some damage, and the annual Vina del Mar International Music Festival was suspended.
The region that experienced the most damage was the Lakes and Volcanos district around the city of Concepcion and the Bio Bio River. The full extent of damage is still being assessed, and basic services, such as water, electricity and telecommunications are gradually being restored. The southern part of the region around the popular tourist towns of Pucon, Puerto Varas and Puerto Montt were unaffected.
Chile has a long history of seismic activity. Proactive measures the country has taken to enact anti-seismic building codes and rapid emergency response plans may have minimized damage from the earthquake.
“Our thoughts and sentiments go out to the families who have lost loved ones,” stated Pablo Moll, executive director of Turismo Chile. “Chileans are a resilient people, and we are hard at work to get the country back on its feet quickly. We look forward to continuing to welcome travelers, and are making every effort to make them feel safe and secure.”
Update (March 15, 2010):
The Radisson Hotel Santiago North is currently closed. Guests have been transferred to the Radisson Plaza at the World Trade Center in Santiago. Other properties in the region, including all Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide properties, are operating normally.