Uruguay estimates that the number of arriving tourists to the country by the end of the year will reach 2.830.000, which is 40.000 less than in 2012, but still encouraging given the regional conditions, according to Tourism minister Liliam Kechichian.
”Even 40.000 less is a very positive number, our projection is that the number of arriving tourists will be similar to 2012. So far our data indicates 2.2 million tourists (October), said Ms Kechichian who added that the ministry had launched a promotion campaign 'Visit Uruguay' in Argentina but with greater intensity in Brazil.
Kechichian also revealed some of the measures adopted by Uruguay to help particularly the Argentine inflow which makes most of the tourists arriving in Uruguay.
On their arrival we hand them literature on reimbursement of VAT (in Uruguay VAT is 23%); we have agreed with supermarkets a basket of goods and we are also trying to convince our people to keep a lid on prices. Argentines for some time now have been extremely sensitive about prices, admitted the Uruguayan minister.
She underlined that analyzed individually tourism in the country's main economic activity, somewhere close to 6% of GDP and employing 8% of our labor force”.
The minister made the statements during the official launching of the current cruise season, which is expected to attract some 240 calls between Montevideo and Punta del Este in the coming months including April.
Kechichian also mentioned that as of next 20 December the Old City next to the port of Montevideo (the original fortress) will be monitored by 200 street cameras, with an immediate reply system, which will give us a higher standard of security than the one we are currently offering.
The minister revealed that in the 2012/13 season, there were 223 cruise calls, 122 in Montevideo and 101 in Punta del Este with 412.000 visitors, which represented an estimated 19 million dollars to the economy. But to this must be added other goods and services provided to the vessels, such as fuel, fresh water, fresh vegetables and fruit.
She added that this year the vessels calling are expected to the larger, the trend in the industry, so we can expect more visitors and crew members, plus the fact that a growing percentage of people who learn about Uruguay as cruise passengers return to the country as conventional tourists.
The official launching of the cruise season was done taking advantage of the presence in Montevideo of 'MSC Poesia' and 'Aida Cara', with 3.000 and 1.110 passenger and 950 and 351 crewmembers respectively.
Alberto Diaz, president of Uruguay's ports administration, ANP, indicated that the Uruguayan government was working out with the cruise companies to make Montevideo a hub for cruises and not only a port of call. We have all the infrastructure, a modern airport, appropriate costs and Uruguay keeps to the rules of the game.
The statement is important because in a recent cruise industry conference held in Punta del Este, there were claims from the companies that port in the region are too costly and some of the transport services are no tendered, which also has an impact.
However Minister Kechichian said that Uruguayan ports are not costly compared to others in the region and the quality of services is very good.