MONTEVIDEO – Uruguay welcomed 2.15 million tourists between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, Tourism Minister Liliam Kechichian said.
“If tourism in the October, November and December quarter produces numbers similar to last year, that is, about 850,000 visitors, I’d dare to predict Uruguay will receive almost 3 million foreign tourists in 2015,” Kechichian said in a statement posted on the Office of the President’s Web site.
The South American country registered an increase of 150,000 in the number of Argentine arrivals between January and September, compared to the same period in 2014.
After the 2014 buying spree by Uruguayan tourists in Argentina, now Uruguay has a trade surplus of $600 million with its neighbor, the tourism minister said.
At the same time, the number of Uruguayans traveling abroad has decreased.
“More than 1 million have gone abroad, but that is less than last year, leading to a substantial improvement in the tourism balance,” Kechichian said.
Uruguay and the World Tourism Organization, or UNWTO, meanwhile, signed a letter of intent on Monday aimed at certifying the resort city of Punta del Este for Good Tourism Practices, officials told EFE.
The preliminary agreement emerged from a meeting in Punta del Este among UNWTO Americas director Carlos Vogeler, Kechichian and officials from Maldonado province, where the resort city is located.
The letter of intent outlines tasks for Uruguay in the areas of tourism organization, human resources training, tourism policies and development of a strategic plan to obtain the certification, National Tourism director Carlos Fagetti told EFE.
“We hope we will be able to send a dossier before the end of the year, and we expect to obtain the Certification of Good Tourism Practices in the Management of Tourism Destinations in the first half of 2016,” Fagetti said.
If successful, Punta del Este would become the first tourism destination in the world with such a certification.
In 2008, Uruguay began the process of obtaining a Good Practices certificate, but the initiative was suspended for a while when changes were introduced in the procedures for getting the seal of approval, and now “we agreed to resume and move this process forward,” Fagetti said.