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Two to tango: known worldwide, Argentine tango has become a global business.

Across the planet, mention Argentina and few things come to mind as quickly as tango. Go to any corner of the world and people are familiar with it. And there's data to really support that: According to a study compiled by U.S. consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton, tango's brand recognition is about as strong as that of Coca-Cola. A brand based on cultural roots and tradition, tango as Argentina's calling card is priceless.

"Promoting Buenos Aires abroad is strongly tied to promoting tango as a tourist product," says Marcela Cuesta, undersecretary of tourism for the city of Buenos Aires. Each year, the city organizes events such as the International Tango Festival and the World Tango Championship, which enjoy international prestige. One way or another, tango generates US$2 billion in business each year worldwide, according to Booz Allen. The bulk of that money, 85%, is spent outside of Argentina. Nevertheless, at home the tango generates business in several ways, including tango dinners and shows, clothing, dance academies, special events and festivals, art, and through sales of compact discs and souvenirs.

Most tourists visiting Buenos Aires feel compelled to pop in for a tango performance--usually at a dinner-theater venue. "There's not a tourist in Buenos Aires that misses a tango show, and many of them take dance classes after seeing a performance," says Romina Biggio, head of sales at El Querandi, a large house built in 1867 in the historic heart of the city. Since 1920, it has operated as a bar and, in 1992, it was renovated to better provide dinner and tango shows for tourists in Buenos Aires. El Querandi can hold up to 200 guests in a nonetheless intimate setting. Open seven days a week, the show takes guests through the history of the tango. Each month, 3,200 pass through its doors, most of them foreign tourists paying $65 per person, which covers both the show and dinner, including Argentine wines.

Across town, the La Esquina Carlos Gardel can hold 480 for its tango shows. Located in the historic Abasto neighborhood, La Esquina Carlos Gardel has welcomed celebrities such as U.S. film director Francis Ford Coppola. Tickets, which include dinner and a show, run from $70 to $140. "There was a need for a high-quality, luxurious establishment in Buenos Aires, and that's what we did with La Esquina Carlos Gardel, the only place of its kind in the world," says Juan Fabbri, who not only owns the restaurant but also cable dance program Solo Tango, which airs abroad, mainly in Japan.

On tour. Fabbri has taken his act on the road in other ways as well. He runs a traveling tango show and says the tour has had success in Russia, the United States, Japan, Brazil and in Central America. He also plans to open a La Esquina Carlos Gardel abroad in the not-too-distant future.

Tourists that want to learn to dance and dress as true tangueros can do just that at Tango Brujo, where they'll find a wide variety of tango clothes and shoes as well as materials such as books, videos and the music itself. Shoes can run from $50 to $70, depending if they are made with real or synthetic leather.

"We offer the tourist a unique Buenos Aires experience. We have a slew of products and services that reflect our popular music," says Alejandro Rinaldi, head of public relations at Tango Brujo. Dance classes are key to getting out to the tourists. "Classes can be individual or group. We can offer what we call Tango Brujo Week, an intense week of tango lessons beginning with the basics," says Rinaldi. Prices for the weeklong class range from $300 to $1,500. There's no excuse for tango fans not to visit Buenos Aires. A few lessons and they'll return to their home countries with a head full of tango, dressed to match, having mastered the basic steps to the rhythm of Argentina.

JUAN PEDRO TOMAS * BUENOS AIRES
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Title Annotation:TOURISM
Author:Tomas, Juan Pedro
Publication:Latin Trade
Date:Aug 1, 2006
Words:663
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