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Uruguayan tourism, a sector battered by the covid that seeks to reinvent itself

Montevideo, Jan 13 (EFE) .- Tourism activity in Uruguay has represented an important source of income in recent decades, although this time the South American country faces its most critical situation due to covid-19 and seeks to reinvent itself and take oxygen in this summer season to stay afloat. This sector has been one of the worst hit worldwide by the pandemic, but in the small country of 3.3 million inhabitants, different options are being worked on and planned despite the fact that there is a total border closure, which, for many, it does not offer higher expectations other than to motivate domestic tourism. Uncertainty is the predominant note in the Uruguayan tourism sector, whose balance will be very far from 2019, which registered 3.2 million visitors (of which 1.7 were Argentine), an income of foreign currency for 1,753 million dollars and a positive balance of 553 million dollars. A LIFEGUARD FOR THE SECTOR Although the austral summer season is just beginning, there are “incentives” for operators and tourists who seek to alleviate the situation in which an occupancy of 30 to 50% of the national supply is estimated. This is how the president of the Uruguayan Chamber of Tourism, Marina Cantera, explains to Efe, who highlights that, despite the fact that the situation is “critical”, during these first weekends of the season there have been varying occupancy rates, depending on the destination, between 70 and 90%. Among the main provisions are the reduction of fixed costs, financing for tourism companies to have liquidity and measures to maintain employment. Likewise, for tourists, measures announced by the Ministry of Tourism are in force, such as the elimination of VAT in hotels or VAT discount in gastronomy and car rentals, among others, to encourage Uruguayans to travel around the country. “Although there is a movement of internal tourism on weekends, it is lower than the forecast that could have been made. Likewise, the sector is putting everything of itself with the protocols, surely to receive tourists in the best way and the expectation is that it is a quite uncertain scenario, “he says. However, he indicates that these measures seek to be “as flexible as possible” with planning, although expectations “have been greatly reduced.” One of the tourist destinations par excellence in Uruguay is the department (province) of Rocha, bordering Brazil, known for its vast expanse of white sand beaches, which makes it a fixed destination for locals and foreigners. The director of the Rochense Tourism Corporation, Delvair Amarilla, explains to Efe that, although the occupancy numbers have fallen by 30%, there are projects that seek to motivate the visit to this destination as “connect with your nature.” “We understand that we have a month and a half of work in the sun and on the beach, but we also want Rocha not to be that. We have a lot of nature to enjoy during the year. With this plan we seek that tourists plan and want to reconnect with their family, friends or personally with our natural destinations “, he details. Although the closure of borders has “greatly affected” activity, Amarilla insists that the pandemic has helped the sector to “reorganize and reinvent itself.” NUBES NEGRAS The sector most affected by the pandemic has undoubtedly been that of travel agencies, which in Uruguay have kept 98% of their branches closed due to restrictions on international flights since March, when the health emergency was declared in Uruguay. country. The president of the Uruguayan Association of Travel Agencies, Carlos Pera, does not hesitate to describe this situation as “very bad and never seen before.” “Now that the use of the colors green, yellow, orange is very fashionable, I would say that travel agencies are in a black situation. Because travel agencies have been closed since March 13 and 93% of employees in unemployment insurance and we see on the very immediate horizon even blacker clouds “, he assures. However, it highlights that the sector does not lose hope and has raised some ideas to the Executive, such as the partial opening of borders at the Carrasco international airport under strict security controls. “I think that the opening should go there. They can brand us classists in saying ‘ah, of course, only those who can travel by plane.’ No, I think we must try to find formulas or proposals that allow our Government to give health security but, on the other hand, that allows to maintain an economy that is based on that number of foreigners, “he says. Land transport has not escaped the onslaught of the pandemic either, with a level of inactivity in buses on international routes that is around 90% of some 150 companies. The president of the National Union of Workers and Transport Workers, Juan Arellano, explains to Efe that the sector is “very complicated” on international routes. “It is a very big complication that they do not have a way to work; then, there are very few workers who are working and most of the companies are unemployed and not only tourism companies, but also those that have an international line such as those that go to Buenos Aires. Aires, Chile, Brazil and Paraguay, “he says. With an accumulated of 27,846 cases of covid-19, 7,478 in the disease and 269 deaths, the South American country is going through its “first wave” of infections and the most complicated period since the health emergency was decreed on March 13, 2020. (c ) EFE Agency

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