How New US Visa Requirements Will Hurt Venezuela Tourism
Ongoing tension between the two governments has meant that the country has been left behind in terms of tourism – and is in fact, the only country on the planet that has not seen an increase in tourist numbers since 2009.
Most other nations benefit from an average six percent tourism increase on an annual basis, so what’s so different about Venezuela?
The American Incentive
The rather attractive incentive for Americans is that one US dollar equals around six Venezuelan Bolivares, so in theory, you’d expected citizens from the United States to enjoy a cheaper vacation. However, the new US visa law greatly inhibits the potential demand.
Ricardo Cusanno, President of Conseturismo, has claimed bureaucracy greatly reduces the desire to visit Venezuela for tourism reasons. As a result, he has predicted the tourism to the country will fall by around 10 percent – mainly due to US visa law stopping US citizens from visiting.
The government has expressed a desire to increase Venezuela’s tourism potential, but it will involve cohesive policies being put in place to meet that goal, says Cusanno.
US Tourists are Welcome
It’s probably no surprise that Cusanno is also on Twitter (isn’t everyone these days?) and he recently tweeted an update encouraging US tourists to visit the country.
He said: “No to an invasion, but yes to many tourists from the U.S. spending and enjoying Venezuelan tourism. Progress and well-being over politics.”
As it stands, US visa law can include requirements for items such as proof of home ownership or rent, bank statements, proof of employment and information on criminal records – some of which can be particularly difficult to get a hold of if you’re already abroad.
Security and Economic Issues
Venezuela is a nation plagued by security and economic issues; the Venezuelen Violance Observatory states it has the world’s second-highest homicide rate.
Venezuela’s currency controls are also erratic. If you were to travel to the country, you’d see long lines to acquire food at supermarkets, and experience the chaotic currency exchange which can mean a Happy Meal at McDonald’s costs anywhere between 90 cents (the black market rate) and $27 (official exchange rate)!
Even if you do manage to acquire a visa, just getting there could also be an issue. Many travel companies, including American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Lufthansa and Alitalia, have either reduced flights to the country or cut them altogether. Why? Because the Venezuelan government is currently in about $4 billion debt to airline companies alone.
The sad truth of the matter is that until Venezuela can overcome some of its troubling security and economic issues, tourism may continue to decline just as predicted, and you may never get to see the beautiful views from the Canaima National Park.
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About Michael Niren
Michael is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. He is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Canadian Bar Association’s Citizenship and Immigration Section and the Associate Member of the American Bar Association. Read more
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