Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela’s shared cultural ties can be used to enhance tourism in both countries. That’s the belief of Alejandro Flemming, Venezuela’s Minister of Tourism.
“We are neighbours and we share a similar geography. In Venezuela, we want to strengthen our relations with institutions like the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) so that we can have a common platform to develop areas like tourism," he said.
“We cannot compete in tourism. We have to complement each other in the development of this. That’s what we said at the ACS. We share cultural ties."
“I was told that in Trinidad they play the cuatro and this comes from Venezuela and we have calipso dancers in southen Venezuela, like in El Callao. The Caribbean Sea shouldn't separate us, but join us,” said Flemming, in an interview at the Venezuelan Embassy, Port-of-Spain, on May 25. Last week, Venezuela participated in a meeting on tourism at the ACS in Trinidad.
According to Flemming, Venezuela is willing to share its model of environmentally friendly tourism with the Caribbean. “Venezuela is the leader of a committee in the ACS regarding the sustainability of tourism. For our country to develop its tourism, we have to be environmentally friendly."
“For example, we don’t want tourism to replace the activities of the people living on the Venezuelan coasts. We don’t want this tourism industry to exploit our people and convert them into slaves. We want the community to be the main actors in the tourism industry. That is what we came to share at the meeting at the ACS.”
Initiatives in Venezuela
Flemming listed a number of famous Venezuelan sites that draw tourists and yet remain eco-friendly. From the Andes mountain chain to the deserts of Falcon, he said, Venezuela has always been a tourist attraction.
“We have multiple tourist destinations. We have the Andes region where tourists can see the beginning of the Andes mountains, which is high as 5,007 metres. The Andes is a cold area that has similar characteristics to other areas in South America. If you go to the north, you will see the city of Falcon and they have a desert which is similar to the African deserts."
“We also have a 1,000 kilometres of coast in the Caribbean Sea. Venezuela has more than 78 small islands. In the south, there is the Amazon. Next to that is the mountains, which are the oldest mountains on the planet. We also have the longest waterfall on the planet, Angel Falls (indigenous name-Kerepacupai Meru). In that area, you will find fauna and flora which are among the oldest in the planet."
“Close to the Atlantic Ocean, you find one of the biggest deltas in the planet, Delta del Orinoco. In Caracas, you have tourist attractions, not only because the nature of the city, but for its history,” he said.
Flemming said Venezuela is now collecting data on its tourist arrivals and other tourist-related statistics. “Right now we are getting together the exact statistics for the number of tourist arrivals, but I would say each year, hundreds of thousands of tourists come to Venezuela, mainly from Europe.”
Many international flights especially those from Europe connect in Venezuela, he said. “At the Simon Bolivar International Airport in Venezuela, we have airlines from Europe, like Air France, Iberia from Spain, and TAP from Portugal. Venezuela is the centre point for all those flights that are going to the rest of South America. That is advantage for tourists in Venezuela.”
Flemming, who was previously the Venezuelan Minister of European Affairs, said he has a lot of experience in these areas. “We know the things that the European tourists like, especially the natural scenery. We believe we have those things in Venezuela.”
Flemming said they are working on a collective plan with other Latin countries where tourists will be able to visit one of the member countries and go on to visit another of the member countries.
“Right now, we are working on the ‘Route of the Liberator,’ which includes Argentina, San Martin, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Ecuador, and this will allow us to enhance tourism in all those areas,” he said.
“In terms of aviation, we have infrastructure ready to take care of this. We already have the first flight of [Venezuelan state owned airline] Conviasa from Caracas to Buenos Aires. We want to make Venezuela a great tourist destination. This is our new slogan in Venezuela, ‘To know Venezuela is your destiny.’”