MIAMI – Uruguay is betting that the cruise industry will increase tourism and help create jobs, expand infrastructure and improve the country’s image, Tourism Minister Liliam Kechichian told Efe.
Kechichian led the Uruguayan delegation to Cruise Shipping Miami, the world’s largest cruise industry conference, which drew more than 900 speakers and 11,000 participants from 125 countries.
The cruise ship business poses a “challenge” to Uruguay’s economy and the government will continue its efforts to consolidate all kinds of activities related to the industry, the minister said.
“The cruise business is important, it keeps growing and it generates employment, but we are betting on it becoming even more of an economic engine than it is today,” the official said.
Cruise industry activity in the South American country, according to the government, “has grown fourfold” in the past decade, helping improve “Uruguay’s image and, in particular, that of its ports.”
During the current season, which ends in early April, the two major Uruguayan ports – Montevideo and Punta del Este – will receive a total of 230 cruise ships with more than 400,000 tourists.
“The most important” factor is the economic activity generated by services in the cities welcoming cruise ships, which will generate “about $40 million” in revenues this year, Kechichian said.
“There are many activities around the ship, vendors, sales of mineral water, fruit, fuel, and that makes us very happy,” the minister said.
In recent years, Uruguayan ports have become a key destination for cruise ships, with some cities listed as “must-visit” sites on Latin American routes.
The industry’s promising outlook has led the Uruguayan government to count on the cruise industry in its efforts to attract more tourists.
Uruguayan officials have come up with a plan to develop and promote the port of Colonia, located 170 kilometers (107 miles) west of Montevideo, in an effort to open new routes.
Tourism is Uruguay’s No. 2 source of income after agriculture and food, Kechichian said.
In 2014, more than 3 million tourists visited Uruguay, spending about $2 billion.