I just got a rather hilarious phone call from Brand Democracy (specialists in “psychographic segmentation studies”), a UK company interviewing “CEOs, businessmen, and key opinion formers” on the subject of their opinion of Argentina; their client is the Argentine secretariat of tourism. It’s a slow news day, so I played along; Unicef got a donation at the end. And what fascinated me most was that after a couple of pro-forma questions about visiting Argentina at the beginning, the bulk of the interview was all about my opinion of doing business in Argentina.
How easy, on a scale from one to 10, did I think it was to do business in Argentina? Would it change my mind if we told you that Amnesty International says that Argentina has a better human rights record than the US? Or if we told you that Buenos Aires has only one-tenth the homicide rate of Rio de Janeiro? How attractive do I think Argentina is now, as a place to do business? What if we told you that it’s the eighth-biggest land mass in the world, just after India, and its economy has been growing fast since it defaulted in 2001? Now how attractive do I think Argentina is as a place to do business?
I fear the Argentine secretariat of tourism won’t be too happy with my answers: the country bumped along at a 3/10 no matter how many times they asked the question, and when they asked for the single best reason to do business in Argentina, I couldn’t think of one. But I am fascinated that the tourism ministry, of all people, has given Brand Democracy the mandate (and the money) to do this survey.
Why should that be the case? The best reason that I can come up with is that Argentina thinks it needs some a serious boost to its touristic infrastructure, and is looking for external investment on that front. It is after all a gorgeous country with great wine country and a beautiful and sophisticated capital city; it’s also the main port of exit for anybody going to Antarctica. So it should by rights get more tourist traffic than it does. Maybe this is all part of an attempt to get the big international tourism-industry companies to start investing much more heavily in Argentina.
Of course, there are other reasons why the tourism minister might award a large contract to a foreign media company. But those aren’t the kind of reasons which make doing business in Argentina any more attractive.