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Although Latin America has caught the world's attention in recent years due to strong growth and expansion, data from our markets still reminds us that these are developing nations. Service quality is an ongoing issue in the region, and problems regarding telecommunications have directly impacted travelers.
Latin America is a highly connected region with Brazil and Mexico among the top five nations in terms of Facebook users, and the region as a whole has more than 200 million people on the social network. This is around 18% of the overall user base, but the Latin American population accounts for less than 10% of the world.
However, this virtual robustness has not been followed by improvements in communications quality. User complaints are as frequent as making a call. A study by Frost & Sullivan late last year revealed that telecom services in the region are expensive and of poor quality due to an extremely concentrated market. At our end, it is the travelers who suffer.
The high prices of international roaming has also caused an adverse effect on the connected travel experience for Latin Americans: many people, afraid of unpleasant surprises in their phone bills, have chosen to leave their mobiles at home during travel and, when they do take them abroad, they disable voice and data services and use the devices primarily via Wi-Fi connection in a hotel or a restaurant, reducing travel connectivity possibly from days to a few hours or minutes.
In Brazil, the largest market in the region, a famous consumer defense website set up a ranking with companies that have been the target of consumer complaints. Of the five companies with the most incidents in the past 12 months, four are major mobile operators.
On the other hand, travelers in Latin America have proven increasingly connected, as shown by the strong growth of OTAs in the region. It is easy to perceive that travel in the region is really pushing countries to improve quality and access for mobile devices.
Travelers have established themselves as ambassadors for better mobile services in Latin America. And these growing demands from the connected traveler will continue to change business, and life in the region and beyond.
However, in Latin America, the travel industry has an even bigger challenge: to be representative of a mindset of innovation and developments that will shape consumer services standards in the coming decades.