Representatives of 11 countries from around Latin America and the world made their way to the Caribbean island of Margarita last weekend to promote travel and cultural exchange through their participation in Venezuela’s 6th annual International Tourism Convention (FITVEN).
The event, the most important showcase for tourism in Venezuela, was inaugurated last Saturday at the state-run Venetur hotel in the city of Porlamar and included the presence of representatives from Colombia, Curaçao, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Spain, Argentina, Cuba, Brazil and Indonesia.
Key to the proceedings this year was the strengthening of tourist bonds between Latin American nations with the intent of promoting not only typical vacation deals but also enhancing cultural understanding.
“Beyond commercializing tourist packages, one of the principal objectives of the convention is for the countries of our America to get to know each other through our traditions and culture”, said Felix Sosa, representative of Ecuador.
Luis Andrade, President of the Association of Caribbean states referred to the event as “very productive” in convening regional solidarity with respect to tourism.
“The intention is to project the great Caribbean as a region with a lot of potential, interaction and challenges. Convening this meeting has been a demonstration of the clarity of objectives that the Venezuelan government has in its aspirations to strengthen the brotherhood between the countries of this territory”, he said.
VENEZUELA: A TOURISM GEM
Apart from building southsouth relations, an important aspect of FITVEN was also the promotion of Venezuela as an international tourist destination. Although it is blessed with an impressive diversity of natural treasures including crystalline beaches, dense jungles, expansive savannas and imposing mountains, Venezuela has traditionally ranked lower on the list of most-visited tourist destinations in the Americas.
Much of this has had to do with the nation’s historic reliance on oil revenues and its consequential neglect of an adequate tourist infrastructure. But this trend has been changing as the Chavez administration attempts to beef up its tourist services and publicize Venezuela as one of South America’s most beautiful destinations.
“We all know that Margarita is an international tourist destination and thanks to this, we want to create a platform to promote other regions such as the Andes, the [Venezuelan] plains, and the region of the Orinoco river”, said Tourism Minister Alejandro Fleming during the convention last weekend.
COLOMBIA & CUBA
Humberto J. Rodriguez, representative of the state-owned Colombian tourist agency Proexport, reported that in 2010, some 190,000 Venezuelans visited his country, placing Venezuela second only to the United States in terms of visits to Colombia.
“This year, we’ve seen a growth rate of 18 percent and we are estimating some 240,000 visitors from Venezuela by the end of 2011. This is something that really pleases us due to the offers that we are providing which are diverse and available for all types of budgets”, Rodriguez said.
According to Jose Perez, President of the Cultural Fund of the Bolivarian Alliance for Our America (ALBA), exchanges between the island nation of Cuba and Venezuela have also been growing steadily over recent years.
Perez pointed out that Cuba has registered a 17 percent increase in Venezuelans visiting the island, representing “around 20,000 people so far this year”.
Apart from the strictly leisurely aspects of international travel, Cuba has also been offering its experience to assist Venezuela in the strengthening of its own tourist sector, the ALBA representative commented.