Top travel agencies from across Venezuela feature as part of this year’s World Travel Market (WTM) at the ExCel centre in London. The WTM is an annual business-to-business event featuring some 5,000 exhibitors representing 184 countries and regions, making it one of the most important in the industry.
This year Venezuela is represented by travel agencies and resorts including: Akanan, Condor Verde Travel, Dunes, Hover Tours, Ikin, Kuravaina, Natoura, Venetur, and Zumaque. The Deputy Minister for Tourism, Zenny Berrios, also attended, demonstrating both the importance of the event and the drive to promote Venezuela worldwide as a top tourist destination.
Speaking to some of the exhibitors, it was clear that they were keen to dispel some of the myths about Venezuela and encourage people to discover the delights of a country that offers everything from Caribbean sunshine and beaches to mountain trekking, waterfalls and rainforests.
José Rivas, from the Venezuelan state tourist agency, Venetur, referred to Venezuela as a “unique” destination and highlighted the importance of participating in the event, which allows for tour operators from across the world to network whilst also providing an opportunity to counter the negative portrayals of Venezuela in the international media.
Elisa Martinez, from the National Institute of Tourism (INATUR), explained the huge potential for a thriving tourist industry in Venezuela. Due to the vast and varied geography and landscapes that Venezuela has to offer, including iconic wonders such as the Salto Angel (Angel Falls), the highest waterfall in the world, tourism has traditionally been conducted by a few agencies and at the initiative of travellers themselves, which has resulted in lost opportunities for the development of an integrated tourist industry which would have not only economic benefits, but a wider social impact.
However, Martinez noted that tourism was identified as one of the three key sectors of the economy within the Venezuelan Constitution of 1999 and a series of strategic programs are being put into place to drive the industry forwards. The interesting political process underway also means that Venezuela is experiencing increasing levels of “political tourism”. In order for this potential to be fulfilled, both the state and the private sector must work together and identify key priorities to ensure that the development of the industry also leads to the democratization of its benefits. Tourism in Venezuela should be an “enriching” experience, accessible to all sectors of the population, acting as a motor for social inclusion and benefiting the surrounding community.
Freddy Martinez, representing the Zumaque tour operator, provided an example of tourism which benefits Venezuelan workers. Named after the first commercial oil well in Venezuela, the agency was set up in 1996 to meet the objectives of the National Oil, Petrochemical and Coal Industry Recreational Club (IPPCN) to provide recreational opportunities workers from these industries and their families. The agency now specialises in both business trips and tourist packages for workers as well as for international tourists and provides services to other public sectors, making it one of the top ten tour operators in Venezuela. In 2012 Zumaque served over 100 thousand holidaymakers. Asked why people should visit Venezuela, Freddy’s key reason was its warm, friendly and helpful people.
Lastly, Adelis Partida, from the Natoura travel agency, which specialises in adventure holidays, spoke of the variety of experiences offered across the country. Venezuela is one of the most biodiverse nations on the planet and its varied landscapes and extensive national parks offer a wealth of opportunities for those keen to spot rare wildlife. He noted that networks such as the “Circuito de la Excelencia” with twenty inns located across the country ensure that a high quality product is offered to tourists.
The future for tourism in Venezuela certainly looks bright.
The WTM is taking place at the ExCel centre in London until this Thursday 7th November. Further details on visiting can be found here: http://www.wtmlondon.com/
Press Unit of the Embassy of Venezuela in London Wednesday 6 November 2013