The number of tourists arriving to Uruguay in the first weeks of this summer season has dropped 14% compared to the same period a year ago, which represents 20.600 less, mostly Argentines and Brazilians, according to Benjamin Liberoff, Director of Tourism.
“In the case of the Argentines the dissuasive measures adopted by the government in Buenos Aires helps to explain the situation and with the Brazilians, insufficient connectivity, which can be attributed to the closing down of Pluna (Uruguay’s national airline”, said Liberoff.
Nevertheless the Uruguayan official said that the Ministry of Tourism “values very highly the fidelity of Argentines and Brazilians whom despite the difficulties turned up” to the local resorts.
“The fall in numbers was anticipated and that is why we implemented some stimuli measures referred to the exchange rate, taxes, rebates on credit card expenditure on renting and hiring cars and some one-time bonuses for fuel”, pointed out Liberoff.
According to official Migration stats during the first twelve days of 2013 the number of people arriving in Uruguay was 189.488 compared to 197.866 in the same period a year ago. But these numbers also include returning Uruguayans and the net number of foreign tourists arriving was 20.600 less than the same period a year ago. The 20.600 missing is made up of 17.500 Argentines and 3.000 Brazilians.
But anticipating harder times ahead Deputy Minister of Tourism Antonio Carambula has been holding meetings with different representatives from the tourism industry to coordinate and promote the special incentives implemented by Uruguay to counter the barriers from the Argentine government.
The barriers from the Cristina Fernandez administration are mainly the so called ‘dollar clamp’ which severely limits the purchase of foreign currency by Argentines plus the fact that those using credit and debit cards overseas will have to pay an additional levy.
However that is not the whole story since the returning Argentines polled when they leave Uruguay had several complaints. Prices, the exchange rate, the cost of fuel and food and the delays at the border crossings, were the most common grievances.
Queues at the two main bridge-crossings and complying with all the paper work demanded meant tourists had to endure delays of 45 minutes to two hours with long lines of cars of over a kilometre.
Another issue was prices, anywhere from 60% to 100% the level in Buenos Aires aggravated by the exchange rate and the price of gasoline which is almost two dollars a litre in Uruguay.
Buying dollars in Argentina at the official price of 4.95 Pesos is a bureaucratic ordeal which includes ‘scanning’ from the tax revenue office AFIP and the Central bank, either of which can finally decide not to sell the greenbacks or most commonly grant a smaller sum.
This forces the Argentine tourists planning to travel overseas, mostly to neighbouring countries, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, to buy dollars in the parallel market which usually operates at an average 50% dearer.
And if for some reason they don’t have the sufficient foreign currency and must sell the Argentine Pesos in neighbouring countries the exchange rate is in the range of 8 Argentine Pesos to the dollar.