With the aim of expanding its tourism sector, Bolivia is exploring in Europe the keys to increase the number of people visiting the Andean country, recently awarded as “Best Cultural Destination in South America 2017” and candidate to receive the same award worldwide in December.
“We have new challenges. We are experiencing a new economic moment in Bolivia, and it can be better as long as we meet the goal of increasing the number of tourists, which is currently low,” explained Bolivia’s Minister of Culture and Tourism, Wilma Alanoca Mamani, in an interview with Efe in Madrid.
Bolivia receives 1.2 million tourists a year, most of them from Asian countries, a number which, according to Alanoca Mamani, aims to double by 2020, bringing the country benefits of 700 to 900 million dollars.
“Bolivia is ready to make itself known to the world,” said the minister, who during her visit to Spain met with various representatives of the Spanish tourism sector and closed her country’s participation in the International Tourism Fair (FITUR), to be held in Madrid from 17 to 21 January 2018.
Before that, Bolivia will also be present at the World Travel Market 2017 London, which will take place in early November in the British capital.
“We are interested in generating a closer dialogue with Europe, an accompaniment with its tourism institutions, to explain to them what works in Bolivia and what it needs at present,” said Alanoca Mamani.
“We are very happy,” he continued, “in fact, we have received in La Paz a week ago representatives of the European Union and we have shown them the current situation in Bolivia. With them we have talked about support programmes for community tourism, which is what we are interested in strengthening”.
The opening to the European market involves increasing the number of direct flights to the South American country which, in the case of Spain, is reduced to just one weekly flight, operated by Boliviana de Aviación (BoA), between Madrid and Santa Cruz.
“We are going to increase the number of flights through an agreement that we have recently signed with Iberia to share some codes”, confirmed the minister, for whom the collaboration with European airlines will make the relationship with tourists more effective.
According to the Bolivian Tourism Observatory, chaired by Alanoca Mamani, the foreign visitor wants to “experience, live with the living cultures of Bolivia, the richness of its history”, and in that sense, “the policies of Evo Morales have been aimed at the Bolivian himself to recognize, value his cultures, his identity, his roots, his history. It has been a process of raising his self-esteem,” he explained.
Now, for example,” he continued, “the farmer feels proud to know that he can transmit his knowledge, take it to museums, to interpretation centers, convert old buildings into lodgings, where tourists can stay overnight and receive all the information from that community.
In addition to traditional highland destinations like Lake Titicaca, Tihuanaco, or the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia needs to promote the Amazon region, a virgin land that has not been “either explored or exploited” for tourism.
In addition, Bolivian authorities propose as a new tourist showcase the numerous reserves and natural parks that the Andean country has.
“All of these benefits must be made known to new markets, including Latin America, which is not exactly the one that visits us the most. But we are also working on it,” concluded Alanoca Mamani.