An estimated 1.8 million tourists will have visited Uruguay in 2007, a figure similar to that of last year, with income in the range of 750 million US dollars. However prospects for 2008 are more encouraging given the increased connectivity of Uruguay in the region, said on Tuesday Deputy Tourism minister Liliam Kechichian.
"The number of tourists is practically the same but what is encouraging is the diversity of visitors as a result of a more extended connectivity", said Kechichian who revealed that new ferries will be incorporated for the Buenos Aires-Uruguay run and the number of air frequencies from Chile, Brazil and United States is also scheduled to increase. "One of the ferries can carry 1.200 people and 300 cars and the other which will operate Buenos Aires-Colonia is also an upgraded unit", said Ms Kechichian. Regarding air links, Lan will be flying directly from Santiago to Punta del Este, TAM and Pluna will increase the number of flights to Montevideo and Punta del Este from Brazil and Argentina and American Airways has confirmed its five days a week direct flight Montevideo/Miami. TACA Airways has begun direct flights to Lima, Peru and Pacific connections. "Tourism represents 60.000 direct permanent jobs and 200.000 indirect jobs making it the second most important activity of Uruguay", pointed out Kechichian. Although the majority of tourists in Uruguay during summer months have been Argentines, the number of Brazilians expected this season is 280.000, jumping to 350.000 in 2009. Chileans are also doubling their visits to Uruguay. The announcements were done during the inauguration in Montevideo of the Carnival Museum, to which cruise tourists from the Silver Wind and the Azamara Journey were invited as part of the strong support for the industry. Although the cruise season was officially inaugurated last November 21 when the Rotterdam called in Montevideo with 1.250 visitors, Ms Kechichian said that this 2007/08 season, 179 calls are scheduled (up from 128 last season). "The idea is to make Montevideo a turnover port for the cruise industry. Once we've finished the expansion of Carrasco airport facilities and have a greater web of regional and international air connections in summer months, I believe we can convince the big operators that we're the ideal place for those exchanges", she concluded.