food / travel

Premium-Economy Pivot? Airlines Adjust Seat Size, Hope For Travel Rebound

Airlines are eyeing premium economy seating options to woo money-conscious business class travelers, and possibly weary economy passengers, back to air travel.

-Analysis-

SANTIAGO — Back in May, I wrote that full-service airlines should start analyzing the costs, benefits, and impact of the demand of business travel, and see whether they would profit from reducing seats in executive class cabins, and from developing products like the premium economy class, which lies between business and economy in terms of comfort and price. They should start doing this in the last quarter of 2021 — I wrote back in May — especially considering that the demand for business class seats and its revenues were unlikely to recover in the following 12 months. And that is what is happening now.

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A Migrant Odyssey: Haiti To Chile To Mexico's Border, And Beyond

Shella Jean was part of a new migration path from Haiti to the relatively prosperous nation of Chile. But she has since left behind her "Chilean Dream" on a perilous journey northward toward the U.S.-Mexico Border. This is her story.

I met Shella Jean in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in July 2017. The first time I saw her, she was standing next to a gas station in the blazing sun. I remember her face: the almond-shaped eyes, the thick lips, and eyebrows as thin as two strands of thread. Shella took me to her home.

We climbed a steep stone street until we reached a concrete room. It was used as a dining room during the day and a bedroom where she slept with her mother, a cousin and a nephew whom she had to take to Chile to reunite with his parents.

Indeed, accompanying her nephew was not only the mission entrusted to her by her relatives but also her chance to start a new life, away from the misery of her homeland.

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EVs Start Moving Latin American Cities To Sustainability

Electric vehicles are a novelty with promise in Latin America and are already expanding in several of its city bus fleets.

SANTIAGO — It's a distance of 1,150 kilometers, a 12-hour car journey, between Temuco in southern Chile and La Serena in the north. Now, you can drive this distance with an electric car, thanks to a network of charging points placed throughout the 1,400-kilometer length of Chile by Copec Voltex, a firm providing electromobility solutions.

The head of the firm's B2C (business-to-consumer) Commercial Projects Director, Alan Morgan Rojas, says Copec realized electromobility was "coming to stay," hence its decision to enter into recharging infrastructures, "which has a fundamental role. The question this scenario prompts is which comes first, electric cars or charging infrastructure? Without charging points at service stations connecting the country, automobile brands would find it difficult to risk bringing them out if they couldn't even leave Santiago, for example."

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From Europe To Latin America, Business Schools Are Going Green

Institutions tasked with training the next generation of business leaders are realizing that sustainability matters, and making significant adjustments to their curriculae.

SANTIAGO — The ESCP Business School, based in Paris but with campuses across Europe, recently opened a sustainability department. The goal is to shift away from traditional courses on corporate responsibility and instead train students and staff to understand and innovate along sustainability lines, a concept that is of growing interest to the business world.

Roxana Olaru, head of admissions and sustainability at ESCP Madrid, says the school has been working with sustainability for at least four years, "through consultancy projects and the creation of various, specialized masters courses." All MBA programs, she said, now have a sustainability module.

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Sources
Carlos Escaffi*

In Chile, Between Healthy Change And Outright Chaos

The social explosion of 2019, a referendum the following year, and last month's 'mega election' have pushed the country in a whole new direction. But is there any method to the madness?

-OpEd-

Chile recently held what was described here as a "mega election." On May 15 and 16, voters not only chose new governors, mayors and district councilors, but also the assembly members who will have the historic task of drafting the country's new constitution.

The election follows last year's referendum, in October, on whether to forge a new constitution and thus scrap the existing one (which dates back to 1980, when Chile was still in a dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet). The vote was overwhelming: 78% of people backed the creation of a new constitution, and 79% decided it should be written by a fully elected Constituent Assembly.

That's part of context, as is the social explosion that took place in late 2019, a year before the plebiscite. And the lesson drawn from all this is that people are blatantly rejecting the current system, the political establishment and all our familiar people and practices, including the very model of politics to which we've ascribed for decades.

People have sought to explain the mega-election results with sophisms and excuses. They say that nobody could see this coming. Others — people here and there who managed to retain a mayorship or a few city council seats — respond with an absurd complacency. Either way, we are not considering the problem at its roots. There is no real or specific expression of contrition.

A voting center in Santiago, on the first day of elections in Chile, May 15, 2021 — Photo: Matias Basualdo

From my modest point of view, there are signs that we are in a political transition not just here in Chile, but at the regional level, and that the recent vote was a crude expression of social protest. Never mind if it is deep or considered: The point is that change is imminent. In aggregate terms, the current voter cares little about what's really going on in the background.

Social and online trends have imposed themselves. I repeat, there is no background, just a poverty of ideas and real debate. The point was to change things, that and nothing more. Another great conclusion is that the consequences of all this will only emerge in time. Let's just hope we don't slide down the slope of populist payouts and a ballooning public sector with more governors, officials and hangers-on.

Looking at the bulk of the 155 constituent assembly members, I fear that the text they will design will come from the heart, not the mind. The problem is that a passionate, possibly overbearing text — one that will then have to be ratified, again through a referendum — is no good. Its scope and shelf-life will be limited.

Finally, it is clear to me that this is the hour, in Chile, of the millennials. We should not be surprised that a 30-year-old economist, Irací Hassler, should have become Santiago's first communist mayor. Nor that Macarena Ripamonti, a 29-year-old lawyer with the Democratic Revolution party, would be elected mayor of Viña del Mar, on the coast.

It may be harsh to say, but our conventional politicians must take responsibility for recent events, and even retire. Especially those who had no vision or responsibility with education!

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Geopolitics
Martin González Solar and Víctor Contreras Kong

Why Latin Americans Fear The Chinese Vaccine

People around the world and around Latin America are wary of the vaccination campaigns to fight COVID-19. But there is a particular hesitancy toward the vaccine solution arriving from China that by now should be discarded, along with stereotypes.

-OpEd-

Polls reveal a range of public fears in Latin America about the various COVID-19 vaccines. Yet the one prompting the most concerns are the Chinese vaccine Coronavac, created by the firm Biotech Sinovac.

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ULTIMAS NOTICIAS
Benjamin Witte

Powering Through Appendicitis For Perfect Score On Chile's National Exam

The 18-year-old was doubled over in pain, but her parents thought it was just a case of exam-time nerves. She survived... and then some!

The two-day, standardized exam that Chilean high school students must take to gain entry into university is grueling enough to make anyone a bit sick to their stomach.

Antonia Schmohol, 18, was no exception, although in her case, the abdominal aches that began bothering her on the eve of the dreaded PTU, as the test is called, turned out to be more than just a case of nerves, the Chilean daily Las Ultimas Notícias reports.

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Economy
Fernando Fernández*

Piling Up Public Debt, Risks Of A COVID Economic Consensus

The pandemic has prompted financial authorities to take a more relaxed approach to debts. For Latin America, overspending in response to the crisis may take them back to the poverty pits of the past.

-Analysis-

The world is engaged in a dangerous experiment. When the 2008 financial crisis hit, central banks abandoned their manuals on traditional monetary policy to become the chief protagonists of an economic stabilization approach. They guaranteed infinite liquidity at historically minimal prices, and embarked on monetary expansion so sustained and spectacular as to be far more than just "unconventional."

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Geopolitics
Héctor Cancino Salas

Digital VAT? A Tax Windfall If Latin America Finds Consensus

Countries like Argentina, Chile and Mexico have begun charging a value added tax (VAT) on digital purchases. But that may just be the tip of iceberg, especially if governments can reach a regional consensus.

SANTIAGO — "Hello, and thank you for using our services," says the website, before adding: "We'd like to inform you that from next month, due to fiscal changes in the country, your membership fee will rise with the increase in digital VAT."

In recent months, millions of users of digital services in Latin America have received messages along these lines, and for a simple reason: The digital boom that's been fueled by companies like Rappi, Netflix or Uber, to name just a few, has caught the taxman's attention. And in most cases, it's the consumer who pays.

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CLARIN
Rossana Castiglioni

Chile, The Deep Meaning And Real Limits Of A New Constitution

Forging a new constitution to replace the one from the Pinochet era is necessary for Chile to move forward. But it alone cannot solve tough socio-economic problems plaguing the nation.

-Analysis-

SANTIAGO — Chile is not about to reform its constitution, but draft a new one — from scratch. The referendum held on Oct. 25 sought to define the mechanism for this, namely a constituent assembly of 155 members, to be elected by direct voting on April 11, 2021.

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Geopolitics
Farid Kahhat

Trump's Sudden Interest In Latin America: A Play For Florida

-Analysis-

LIMA — Last August, U.S. President Donald Trump's administration published its Western Hemisphere Strategic Framework paper, which designated the Western Hemisphere — North and South America — as a "geo-political priority for the United States." National Security Adviser Robert C. O'Brien, who presented the document, insisted the region was incredibly important to the United States, and had been ignored for too long. Personally, I find this declaration puzzling.

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Geopolitics
Josefina Martínez

Latin American Hospitals: Shock And Lessons From COVID-19

Even the region's top hospitals were caught off guard by the pandemic. However, some proved adept at adapting and are looking at ways to better prepare for the next big crisis.

SANTIAGO — The pandemic offered a painful reminder of why contingency plans matter.

In Latin America, it was a lesson learned the hard way. Yes, some hospitals were better prepared than others, and better able to cope, as a result, with the COVID-19 epidemic. Overall, though, the novel coronavirus came as a shock, and the damage has been transversal.

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Economy
*Roberto del Río

Retailers And The Pandemic: Adapt Or Die

Consumer habits shifted dramatically as people sheltered in place. In-person shopping is picking up again, but everything's still in flux for sellers, who will have to adapt or say 'adios.'

-OpEd-

SANTIAGO — The era of COVID-19 could also be called the sink-or-swim era, at least when it comes to retailers, both large and small. The pandemic has caused consumer habits to change quickly and in ways nobody expected. Companies, as a result, must either move quickly and adapt, or sink.

Today, the what and the how in mass-scale consumption has become an uncertain realm, especially in Latin America, which has yet to see any light at the end of the tunnel in this prolonged crisis.

In retail, the most obvious adaptation has been to transition online. The speed at which businesses have done this exceeded any prediction that might have been made, and in Chile this was because some 229,000 households suddenly began buying online. Driving the digital transition were quarantines that blocked or limited movements, including supermarket shopping, but also people just wanting to stay home because of health concerns.

Sooner or later we shall go back out and face the "new normal," which means shops will reopen and there will be a new, mass consumption scenario. How will consumers return to shops? What will they buy, how and why? These are some of the questions the industry, if it hopes to capture this new consumer, must grasp fast and answer.

The what and the how in mass-scale consumption has become an uncertain realm.

In the past six months, mass consumption has seen some more specific changes. In Chile it began in March with panic buying ahead of an imminent lockdown, with families wanting to assure supplies for some time ahead. As months passed and restrictions increased, buyers calmed down. Their purchases have now become highly rational (no more window shopping) and broadly based on replacing basic home supplies. The consumption of meat and dairy products and packaged foods has increased. Perfumes, alcohol and drinks are down, and buyers are looking for what they need, at the best price. A consumer study by the consultancy Kantar has shown that the incomes of 67% of shoppers has dropped in the pandemic.

This can be an opportunity for the big chains in the post-pandemic world. Spending on household and cleaning products will recover its ordinary levels and a new budget space will appear for other consumer goods that saw a recent fall in demand. The return to the "new normal" will feel like freedom, which will be evident in renewed visits to shops and supermarkets. This means the point of sale will once more become the frontline, and strategies on marketing and brand visibility will be crucial to cashing in on post-pandemic consumer habits.

In present conditions it is difficult to see consumption rising again in the short term, and there's little doubt that big consumer sectors will inevitably see a drop in sales. But with the right tools like Big Data and data analyses, retailers can respond fast to these big changes. With information reading systems, retail businesses can spot changing conducts, maintain their supply chains and ensure they're not left out of the market.

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Geopolitics
Gonzalo Muñoz

It's Time To Flatten The Climate Change Curve Too

There are important lessons to be learned from how the world mobilized to contain the novel coronavirus.

-Analysis-

SANTIAGO — A century ago, humanity was recovering from another pandemic, the worst the world had known, at least judging by the fatality figures. Some 50 to 100 million people — or 10-20% of the world's population died — died from the misnamed Spanish flu, which began near the end of World War I and originated, in all likelihood, in the United States.

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Geopolitics
Carlos Quezada

Winners And Losers In The Coronavirus Economic Crisis

The pandemic will stress existing trends toward digitalization and wealth concentration — others will pay the price.

-Analysis-

SANTIAGO — Given the turmoil in world markets, uncertainty over when the pandemic will end and questions about the measures governments are taking to manage to the situation, it's worth looking back at some previous, epidemic-borne crises that affected countries or groups of countries.

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Sources
*Alejandro Werner

Latin America And The Economic Consequences Of COVID-19

Governments around the region are taking measures to contain the outbreak. But they also need to face the economic fallout, IMF official Alejandro Werner warns.

-Analysis-

SANTIAGO — COVID-19 is spreading fast. It is no longer a regional question, but a challenge demanding an international response. The pandemic hit the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) later than it did other regions, and we still have an opportunity to flatten the contagion curve.

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