The objective of this report is to provide a general overview of Venezuela’s tourism infrastructure status as it is today. Venezuela is blessed to have wonderful natural attributes of all sorts: tropical beaches, rain forest, large rivers, plains and mountains. Its geographical location combined with a privileged weather and the warmth of its people, suggest that this country has indeed all the potential to become one of the most favorite tourism destination in the world.
Despite all these marvels, Venezuela still lacks an adequate infrastructure to be able to compete on the same scale with similar destinations around the world. Recent statistics indicate that approximately 600 million tourists were expected to travel worldwide, out of which only 1 in 1,000 will visit Venezuela. Venezuela’s government is committed to increase the rate of visitors to at least 1% the coming years to achieve 6 million visitors annually generating approximately USD 6,000 millions.
In the past two years, the inflow of tourists and visitors to Venezuela has decreased about 32%. According to Corpoturismo, a local government tourism institution, the number of visitors to the country was 685,429 in 1998, out of which 158,265 visitors or 23% of the total came from United States. By 2000, the number of visitors has reduced substantially to 469,047 from 586,900 the previous year. In 2000 only 74,124 visitors, or 15.8% of the total, came from the U.S, compared to 128,545 in 1999, a 42% decrease. The tragedy in the Vargas state in December 1999 has contributed in part to the drastic contraction of Venezuela’s receptive tourism. Instead, the number of Venezuelans traveling overseas has been constantly increasing, hampering the local industry. This phenomena can be explained by four main reasons: The lack of an adequate tourism infrastructure, insecurity, high prices and the lack of good services.
The public and private sectors are making efforts to revive tourism activity in the country. There are many opportunities throughout the full spectrum of tourism infrastructure and tourism services in Venezuela such as lodging facilities, lodging equipment and services, to entertainment facilities and services such as marinas, golf courses, casinos, aquariums and theme parks. The most popular activities of beach, adventure, and eco-tourism offer many opportunities for U.S. companies willing to bring their infrastructure, products and services. There are many ideas and projects from the government and the private sector, many of which need investors willing to put the financial backup and technical expertise into these projects. This report will try to focus on those projects that have some chance to bring up new opportunities for U.S. companies in the Venezuelan market.
AREA: 916,445 Km
LOCATION: Northern region of South America, in front of the Caribbean Sea.
CLIMATE: Mild temperate: from 69F to 85F; rainy and dry seasons. Climate varies according to the terrain from hot-tropical along the coast, wet and humid in the rain forest to cool and snowy mountain weather in the altitudes.
TERRAIN: A generous Caribbean coast of 4,006 Km long on the north. Mountains along the north coast, and the western region reaching 5,007 meters of altitude. The plains in the central region, and a combined terrain of flat and protuberant elevations in the Southern region.
POPULATION: 23,242,435 (June 1998)
ECONOMY OVERVIEW: The Asian economic crisis and a drastic drop in world petroleum prices threw the Venezuelan economy into a deep recession that began in the second quarter of 1998. The domestic economy remains depressed due in part to continuing uncertainty over the constitutional reform process initiated by President Chavez after his election in December 1998. The continued delays in the political reform process and the polarizing atmosphere of a seemingly never-ending series of political campaigns have fed investors' doubts about the economy. Strong rises in oil prices, which began in the middle of 1999, have eased the Government's financial problems. At the end of the second quarter of 2000, the Venezuelan economy was showing some signs of recovery. It remains to be seen, however, whether these hopeful indicators mark the beginning of a sustained period of economic growth or not. Real GDP declined by .1 percent in 1998 and by 7.2 percent in 1999. The major near-term growth prospects remain in the extractive and infrastructure-related areas. The growth industries are petroleum (production, refining, marketing) and other hydrocarbons, mining, telecommunications and power generation. Venezuela’s drive to privatize state
owned industries has generated USD 4.8 billion for the government since 1990. Foreign investors have purchased stakes in the telecommunications, steel, sugar, refining, tourism, dairy, cement, aviation, banking and insurance sectors. Infrastructure is generally adequate (though deteriorating) in urban areas and thin in the interior of the country. Under the 1994 Concessions Law, the government gave priority to infrastructure spending, particularly for transportation projects. The government has developed a project strategy to generate USD 4.6 billion of investment in infrastructure by 2002. The December 1999 floods have added several more and indeed urgent infrastructure projects to the GOV list. Uncertainty over the government’s economic policies has caused domestic and foreign investors to postpone investments, with the exception of a few key industries. Telecommunications, the petroleum-related industries, public works such as ports, airports and transportation systems remain potential areas of growth.
TOURISM INFRASTRUCTURE OVERVIEW:
STATUS OF TOURISM INFRASTRUCTURE:
Communications and transportation
Roads: Transport is mostly by road. The country has a total of 95,795 km of roads, of which 32,800 are paved, 28,100 gravel-covered and the remainder compacted earth. A USD 250 million concession for the Caracas La Guaira Expressway, a major artery between Caracas and Simon Bolivar Airport, was awarded to a group of private companies at the end of 1996 but rescinded in the year 2000. The government also plans to spend over USD 600 million to complete the Romulo Betancourt Freeway connecting Caracas to tourist and oil regions in the east. However, this project is on hold for now. In Carabobo state soon will be finished a 8 Km highway branch towards Morón (in Falcón state), west of Carabobo, and there is an environmental project for this road pending to granted in concession. There is also a concession pending for a 20-year management of the 25 Km Central-Western highway La Raya, and a USD 400 million concession to build highway Jose Rafaeil Pocaterra, south of Valencia Lake towards Carabobo.
Railroads: Venezuela has few railroads, with the exception of a line from Puerto Cabello to Barquisimeto (173 km) and from Yaritagua to Acarigua (75 km). Since 1992, the state
owned railroad development agency IAFE (Instituto Autónomo de Ferrocarriles del Estado) has been working on a Railroad National Plan to develop a 4,000 km national railroad network over a twenty-year period. A 40 km line Caracas- Cúa ( Tuy Valley south of Caracas) has been under construction since 1997 by a consortium from Italy, Japan, and Venezuela. This Project is expected to be completed by 2004, providing transportation services both ways for approximately 60,000 people daily. IAFE is looking to award a second concession for a 180 km line between Cúa-Puerto Cabello to the same group. It will allow passenger and cargo transportation, releasing congestion from the Central-western highway, linking important cities such as Maracay, Valencia and Puerto Cabello. There are also plans to built other lines from Puerto Ordaz to Guanta (440Km), from Barcelona to Charallave (280Km), and others connecting the Nothern and Central regions with Western states. At the present time, all efforts are oriented towards the rehabilitation of the 240 Km Puerto Cabello- Barquisimeto- Yaritagua- Acarigua line, which has been operating since 1958, and is strictly cargo.
Airports: Venezuela has 280 authorized airports and landing strips. However, only about 40 have scheduled commercial service, some by small regional airlines flying airplanes of less than 20-passenger capacity. There are six international airports in Venezuela: The Maiquetía “Simón Bolívar”, Valencia “Arturo Michelena”, Maracaibo “La Chinita”, Porlamar “Santiago Mariño”, Punto Fijo, Barcelona, Maturín and Aeropuerto de Caracas “Oscar Machado Zuloaga” (this one only for general aviation). These airports serve thirty (30) international airlines, including four major U.S. airlines: American Airlines, Continental, Delta and United Airlines. According to “Radar Turístico” magazine, in 1999 American Airlines was the number one international airline, with 31.79% of the market, followed by United Airlines with 18.43, KLM with 10.59%, and Continental with 5,99%. The rest shared 33.20% of total market share. There are currently seven local airlines: Aerotuy, Aeropostal, Air Venezuela, Aserca Airlines, Avensa-Servivensa, Avior, Lai, Laser, Rutaca and Santa Bárbara. Aeropostal and Aserca are by far the two main national airlines, the two combined share over 70% of the local airlines market. These two airlines and Avensa also service some international routes.
The airports are under state government control, with the exception of two privately owned international general aviation airports and one, on Margarita Island, managed under a concession. The air traffic control system and navigational aids are operated by the Ministry of Infrastructure. Several states as well as the federal government have plans or projects for airport improvement or the construction of new airports facilities. Maiquetía Airport, near Caracas, is presently executing a USD 300 million plan to enlarge its main terminal by separating incoming from outgoing passengers, build a large new reception hall with many concessions, build a new cargo terminal, add several more gates and build a 190-room hotel. The hotel project will be financed by the hotel concession, and there are rumors that the Hyatt chain will build this facility. The new terminal will allow the departure and arrival of a total of 6 million people per year, compared to the current 2.5 million. In Carabobo state, there are plans for the improvement and expansion of the facilities of the “Arturo Michelena” airport, the construction of a new international airport and a hotel next to the airport; however a feasibility study is pending. There is also a project to improve the landing field of the “Bartolomé Salom” airport in Puerto Cabello. The city of Maturín, with TDA financing, has a U.S. consulting firm conduct a feasibility study for the construction of a new international airport to replace the existing airport which is being encroached by urban growth and cannot be enlarged. Venezuela’s President has announced a project to build or improve nine airports in the South of the country as part of a wide-ranging development plan for this underdeveloped, mainly agricultural region. Apparently, these projects are oriented to bring more demographic, tourism and industrial development to that region. None of these projects have started execution, and their feasibility is doubtful. Airport planners from the Ministry of Infrastructure consider that the building of these facilities would require continuing financial support, or otherwise, they would negatively affect the overall infrastructure budget in the next years. As stated above, Venezuela has many landing facilities, but limited commercial air traffic. General aviation with small planes is currently providing tourist service to such small landing strips with severe restrictions from an aviation safety point of view.
There are several means of local transportation for the visitor: Mayor car-rental agencies at almost every city in Venezuela and airports. There are also rental desks at the main hotels. Most vehicles are equipped with air conditioner. There are also a number of chauffeured, antique and limousine rental businesses. Car rentals are considerably more expensive than in the United States. There is also taxi service available, although expensive as well. There is also inexpensive bus airport bus service, and metro-bus transportation available in the city. For local tourism purposes, there are a few deluxe private bus lines, very convenient, with daily departures to the main cities and all the confort and food service available. The most exclusive one is Aeroexpresos Ejecutivos which has private terminals in seven cities. Rodovias de Venezuela serves 12 cities around the country and has private terminals in Caracas and Valencia. There is also Expresos los Llanos and Aerobuses Venezuela, both arrive and depart from standard terminals.
Sea and River Ports: Sea and river ports are controlled by the states in which they are located. Some states have chosen to turn their ports over to private companies for their operation, maintenance and further development, while others are operating them as commercial companies. Puerto Cabello, located north of Carabobo state, is the main sea port in the country. This port moves approximately 70% of the cargo activity, or approximately 10 million TM per year. Approximately 62% of the country’s total exports and 65% of imports to Venezuela take place in Puerto Cabello. The U.S. has a 40% share of actual imports. There are short-term plans to build a modern terminal for containers, and to habilitate a terminal with tourism purposes, due to the growing tourism activity in the state which is becoming more appealing for cruise lines. Puerto de Guanta and Puerto La Cruz, are both located in Eastern Anzoátegui state. Puerto de Guanta is mainly a commercial port for oil, gas and petroquimical activity, and receives the international shipment companies from 100 ports worldwide. There are also plans to adapt Puerto Guanta’s infrastructure for cruise ships touches, as part of the state of Anzoátegui’s tourism-cultural circuit project Puerto La Cruz, located north of Anzoátegui state, is mainly oriented to oil shipment overseas. Also its privileged location surrounded by extraordinary beaches, next to El Morro Tourism Complex one of the largest tourism projects in the country, and close to Margarita island, has helped increased ferry transportation of mostly local tourists from and to the island. Puerto La Cruz will be the center of an ambitious Cruise Port project to attract international visitors to the Eastern Venezuelan coast. In Margarita island there are two ports. Puerto Guamache, a state port, is a port for mixed cargo and passenger traffic. In 1993 the government granted its management and operation in a twenty-year to Consorcio Guaritico- Guaritico III. Since Margarita was declared “tax-free zone”, commercial activity in Puerto Guamache grew tremendously. Today, Margarita’s image is portrait as a tourism destination for international cruise lines; approximately 80 ships and 120,000 passengers arrive each year at Puerto Guamache, compared to 3 cruise ships that used to arrive back in 1993. Puerto La Mar is a private Cruise port project that will start operating by the end of 2001. It is expected to bring to island 400,000 new tourists per year from cruise ships operations. This port will also operate as a Port of Call, and as such, it’ll count with additional infrastructure such as: A 234-room five star hotel,four movie theaters, a casino, boutiques and an entertainment center. The cost of the first phase of the project is estimated at USD 50 million.
In Venezuela there are approximately a total of 2,500 lodging establishments, including 26 five star hotels, 30 four star hotels, 444 one star hotels, 1,500 inns and campgrounds, and 500 resorts, private residences and time-sharing properties. The total capacity lodging capacity is at 80,000 rooms, 155,000 beds and 4,000 goods and services. Hotels are currently operating at only 40% of their installed capacity. To achieve the 350,000 jobs goal, hotel occupancy needs to increase progressively to reach at least on average a 70% occupancy rate annually.
In Venezuela operate the most prestigious worldwide hotel chains with top-class facilities, such as: Hilton, Hesperia, Barceló, Radisson, Sheraton, Best Western, Embassy Suites, Four Seasons, Intercontinental and Melia to name just a few. The majority may be found in cities such as Caracas, Maracaibo, Valencia, Mérida, Barquisimeto and on Margarita Island. In Caracas hotel activity is mostly related to business purposes. According to “Radar Magazine”, a local tourism magazine, in 1999 the Caracas Hilton hotel ranked number one in occupancy rates with 35.87% of the total metropolitan area market share, followed by Gran Meliá Caracas with 24.15%, Eurobuilding 15.53%, and the Tamanaco with 14.54%. However, market share is subject to change due to increased competition, as new hotels penetrate the Venezuelan market. The Embassy Suites , already operating, will take some market share from the traditional, long-established ones. The Best Western chain has also expansion plans throughout the country. Inns and campgrounds can be found more in the country side, such as Los Roques, Grand Savanna, the plains and in the páramos of the Andes, near Mérida. Spanish companies such as Hesperia have come to Venezuela to stay. The Hesperia group has already been three years in the Margarita island developing two hotel complexes: Hesperia Isla de Margarita, and the Hesperia Playa El Agua, which currently is in a remodeling stage.
After the natural tragedy which took place in Vargas state in December 1999, the government and the private sector are taking initiatives to restore the region and the coast to revive tourism activity. The two main hotels Macuto Sheraton and Melia Caribe were severely affected by the disaster. There are two major five starts hotel projects, one is hotel “Olé Caribe” and the other one is the “Hotel Aeropuerto” which will be located right across the airport international terminal. Originally the airport hotel concession was granted to the Embassy Suites chain which later dropped it and now the Hyatt chain will probably take over. “Maiquetía 2000” is an ambitious project oriented to improve and modernize and enlarge the terminal and other airport facilities such as the cargo aerea. The hotel and an heliport will also be part of this project. According to Corpoturismo, a government tourism agency, 35 technical feasibility lodging projects ranging from 6 to 269 (JW Marriot) rooms were approved in 2000, for a total of 1,819 rooms. Six of these projects, including the Marriot project, were certified as tourism centers for approximately USD 68 million total investment. It is still unknown whether these projects will take place in the near future.
Fogade, is a government institution, created to transfer or sell to the private sector a pool of state-owned tourism assets, confiscated from the private sector during the 1994 banking financial crisis. There are approximately thirteen hotel projects countrywide, available for investors interested in participating in the public procurement of these hotels. The Jirahara hotel (Barquisimeto Hilton), Puerto Vigil and Mare-Mare in Puerto La Cruz and The Marital Largo, in Monagas state are some of the main ones.
In Venezuela, since 1990, there is a growing trend for lodging operations mixed as hotel and time-share facilities. A decade later, there are approximately 60 of such projects. In Margarita, the supply of time-share complexes surpassed traditional hotel lodging, and currently has 71% of the total market-share market with over 3,069 units. Mérida, Táchira and Trujillo follow. Falcón state has also great potential to develop time-share complexes. The mountain and the beach, the most seasonally visited places, are the big time players in the time-sharing business. Corporacion L was one of the pioneers the time-sharing in Venezuela, and today in addition to its traditional hotel clientele, it also has 31,084 families owning 42,733 time-sharing contracts. Some of Corporación L complexes are: The Doral Beach, hotel Port L’Mar Suites, Casas del Sol, Villas de Pampatar, and Varadero Club de Playa.
In Venezuela, the market for inns has grown tremendously all over the country. The visitor will find a variety of inns along the coast, particularly in the Morrocoy area, west of Caracas. There are also numerous Inns in the Andean mountains, in the surroundings of Mérida city. Most of these Inns are managed and serviced by the owners themselves who watch closely the quality of the lodging, the food and the service. In Carabobo state, there is a project to build Inns oriented to spur agro-tourism activity south of Valencia lake.
Conference and Convention Centers
A large portion of the Venezuelan offering in this sector may be found in five-stars and four stars hotels, which have spacious meeting rooms to satisfy the profile of the demanding Events and Business tourism market. The vast majority of visitors to Venezuela, particularly to Caracas, are professionals who come for individual business purposes, or attend certain conferences and business events. Conferences ranging from 100-500 people are common, although events gathering up to 4,500 people have also taken place. The potential for this market is good. Recently, the Hilton Hotel hosted the II OPEC Summit meeting. The “Palacios de Eventos” in Maracaibo, and the “Centro de Convenciones Mucucharistí” are also good examples of the local infrastructure. The “Teatro Teresa Carreño” is ideal for cultural activities, and “The Poliedro” in Caracas, is perfect for large-scale events. There are other projects around the country for other convention centers, such as the ones in Margarita island and in Carabobo state. Besides the opportunities for event services and event consulting businesses, opportunities for high-tech U.S. companies in the audiovisual and telecommunications equipment will develop with the growth of this segment of the tourism market in Venezuela.
Parks and attractions
Venezuela is slowly starting to develop a serie of attraction parks countrywide to boost tourism activity. For example, in Margarita island, there is 60,000 square meter aquatic park know as “Parque el Agua”, located between El Tirano-El Cardón, just 3 Km away from popular “Playa El Agua”. This project has a variety of water attractions such as pools and thrill slides, and it also counts with adequate service facilities.
The main Venezuelan cities are dotted with leisure parks, green areas, and zoos. Unfortunately, the lack of maintenance of parks’ installations and the lack of control on trash and garbage in common areas is a mayor problem just about anywhere in the country. In Caracas there are several parks such as “Zoologico El Pinar”, “Parque de Caricuao” and “Parque del Este”. The latter one is the one in the best shape of all three, and efforts are being made to improve its facilities. In Caracas there are also other attractions for children such as small theme parks and coin-machines entertainment centers in some popular malls. “Dinotrópolis” and “Ðiver-city” are among the most popular. Shopping and movies are very popular activities for the Caraqueños. The number of malls is Caracas is constantly growing, there are many: “Sambil”, “C.C.C.T”, “Plaza Las Américas”, “Centro Viscaya”, and many more. Most of them are equipped with a good variety of stores, including many famous international chains, fast-food franchises and movie-theaters. In Valencia, Maracaibo, Porlamar and other main cities the same trend is taking place. “Metrópolis” is a huge project that soon will open its doors in Valencia. Also in Caracas, as in other mayor cities, the variety and the quality of restaurants is excellent. There is a great variety: Italian, French, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese among others. Venezuelans, enjoy intensely going out to restaurant on week-ends, although the restaurant market has been somehow affected by the economy slowdown and as a result, restaurants have become increasingly expensive. Since Venezuela, is a country of young population, discotheques and night-life bars have always been very popular everywhere in the country.
In Caracas, the cable-car to El Avila mountain (“El Teleférico”), originally built in the 1950’s during the Perez Jimenez dictatorship has restarted operations, and it has become one of the preferred attractions of the Caraqueños. In 1998 the operation of the Cable-car and Humboldt Hotel project was granted by Corpoturismo to Inversora Turística Caracas ITC, a joint venture between the Group Mezerhane and the Fondo de Valores Immobiliarios. The total amount of the investment for the first stage of the Avila Mágica theme park complex is estimated at 47 million dollars. This cable-car will be the only one in the world to operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It’ll have 84 cable cars for a nine-minute ride each, with capacity to transport 1,920 people per hour. The Hotel Humbolt will open its doors in 2002, and will have 70 suites and all sort of services for its guests and visitors, including a pool, spa, a deluxe restaurant and a discotheque. The last stage of this project will allow transportation between the Galipanes station (on the Avila mountain) to Macuto on the coast.
“La Colonia Tovar”is a charming cool-weather mountain town, originally a German settlement (since 1843) that still embraces German traditions and maintains its unique German architectural style. Accessible from the route via “El Junquito”,“La Colonia Tovar” has become a prime destination for weekend outings from central coastal cities. There are many typical hotels and traditional German food restaurants and stores. Most major hotels in Caracas arrange for bus tours to this town.
The city of Mérida, located in the Western Andean range, has one of the best attractions for the local and foreign tourist: The world longest cable-car in the world (12,5 Km). It takes the visitor to the heights of Pico Espejo, at 4,765 meters above sea level. This attraction combines the thrill of the cable-car trip at such altitudes with the peacefulness of a mountain excursion.
In Hotel Hilton Margarita & Suites there is a 4,300 square meter casino, said to be the biggest and most modern in the Caribbean. The Casino is equipped with sophisticated technology and spectacular game machines. The Casino project was undertaken by the Grupo Cavendes, Inversiones Pueblamar and Consorcio Internacional Cirsa, at an estimated cost of 10 million dollars. Today it has 17 gaming tables, but it plans to have 35 available soon. It also has a restaurant, a theater and a luxury bar. There is also another entertainment center in Margarita, known as “El Casino del Sol”, located in Porlamar next to Marina Bay. Its 2,500 square meters of electronic entertainment machines of the last generation, are meant to increase the visitor’s chance to become a winner. Despite coin entertainment machines, this USD 13 million investment project from The Codere group, includes national and international on-stage shows, a VIP room, varied gastronomy and bar service.
Valencia, in Carabobo state, also has a number of attractions for the visitor. The Fernando Peñalver Park has open spaces beautifully designed for the enjoyment and relaxation of the visitor. “Dunas” is a popular attraction park for the children. The Valencia Aquarium is among the favorites for children and adults. It will soon become an experimental lab. facility for a larger Aquadom project to be built in the huge complex “Parque Recreacional del Sur” in the South Valencia area. This complex will also have the Valencia Hipodromo, a dog-race center, a monumental stadium known as ‘Plaza de Toros”, an international trade-fair center known as “Parque de Ferias”, and also a major urbanistic project designed to house 200,000 people in 35,000 units with all the educational, commercial, entertainment and health facilities included.
Horse racing is very popular in Caracas and Maracaibo and the facilities attract many spectators. In Yaracuy state there are excellent facilities for sportive-tourism. These facilities are considered to be of the best and most modern ones in the country, and have served in different national and international sportive events. Golf is an expensive sport that the vast majority of the Venezuelan population cannot afford. For this reason golf courses can only be found in exclusive resorts and private clubs with access limited only to their members. There is a total of 27 golf courses in the country, for a population of 47,000 golf players. There are many projects for resort complexes which include golf courses.
In Venezuela there are 43 National parks and 21 natural monuments spread out in 15% of the national territory. The most popular ones are Canaima, Juan C. Falcón, Médanos de Coro, Mochima, San Esteban, Yurubí, Cuevas del Guácharo, Henri Pitier, El Avila, Laguna La Restinga, Morrocoy and Los Roques. According to Corpoturismo’s latest statistics, Morocoy was by far the most visited national park in year 2000 with 899,743 visitors, followed by Henry Pitier with 209,793 visitors. Imparques is a government institution responsible for the maintenance and preservation of the country’s national parks.
One of the country’s first and most preferred adventure/ecotourism destinations is Canaima, located in the Northwest corner of Bolívar state, in a 3-million-hectare national park of the same name. The first commercially developed camps were “Jungle Rudy” and “Avensa Airlines”, both by the village of Canaima on the Carrao river, close to the “Hacha Falls”. Aerotuy also opened other two camps: the “Kavak” and “Campamento Arekuna”, only accessible by air. These camps have basic facilities within a primitive style. The scenery in Canaima is spectacular with its wild rivers, dense jungle, and impressive “Auyantepuis” (flat-top mesas). The visitor can take several guided tours on “Curiaras”(wooden boats). The local Indians act as tour-guides and take the visitor to hidden spots where they can enjoy a swim in the dark-cool waters of the Carrao river, or a delicious massage-shower under small waterfalls. But the utmost goal of every visitor is to get to see the breath-taking, world-famous “Angel Falls”, the highest in the world (980 meters). There are tour options to visit “Angel Falls”, a 3-day combined walk and river ride excursion or a plane ride. The “Gran Sabana” is another spot that attracts a large number of visitors to Southern Venezuela. It overlaps with Canaima National Park in a great extend. The “Gran Sabana” is a plain of rolling grassland, with over 80 majestic “tepuis”raising to heights averaging 1,000-2,723 meters above sea level. The road cut through the length of the “Gran Sabana” has been paved since 1991, making it possible for normal cars to travel between Puerto Ordaz and Santa Elena de Uairén (on the Brazilian frontier). Although there are tours to the “Gran Sabana” from the Avensa, Ucaima, and Aerotuy camps, self-guided tours are the most popular and least expensive. Ciudad Guyana natural scenarios are magnificent. There are several natural parks of exuberant nature, close to the Caroní river: Cachamay, La Fundación, La Llovizna and Plaza Las Aguas.
In Venezuela’s Central Region there are 300,000 square kilometers of flat land prairies with a variety of savannas and forest ecosystems, commonly known as “Los Llanos”. The biological diversity is also amazing: 100 species of mammals, 350 birds, 600 fishes , 26 amphibians and between 2,000- 4,0000 plant species. There are also threatened species such as the Orinoco Crocodile, the tapir, the manatee, the jaguar, the river turtle, the giant anteater, among others. Cattle is abundant in the Llanos. A handful of “Hatos”, sprawling cattle ranches, some with wild reserves, offer lodging, full board and guided excursions, making them ideal for observing fauna and daily activities on the ranches: Horse riding, cattle-ranching, bird-watching, fishing and hunting are some of the many activities available to the visitor. In the Llanos there are six major “haciendas” spread over 31,200 square Km, which offer nature tourism accommodation and tours. There are also cattle ranchers (Hatos) such as the 80,000 hectares “Hato Piñeiro” that even has a biological station for scientific research. Among other popular hatos there are: “Hato Masaguaral”, “Hato El Cedral”, “Hato Doña Bárbara” and “Hato San Antonio”, “La Madera” y “El Crispero”. Rafting activity is also becoming increasingly popular during the rainy season. There is a network of private ranches committed to protect the wildlife from indiscriminate and illegal hunting, done by some cowboys, campesinos and groups who brake illegally into private property and protected areas. The planned new Land Law has brought up serious concerns among private property owners who fear the government could expropriate private land and give it to poor landless campesinos.
In the Western-Central region there are also natural wonders ideal for ecotourism and tourism of adventure. Particularly along the 15 Km Yaracuy river which crosses Carabobo, Falcón and Yaracuy states. The landscape, with its fertile cultivated valleys, mountains and plains, its exuberant vegetation, together with the great variety of fauna, and its strategic location make of this region an ideal place suitable for the development of ecotourism and tourism of adventure. Among the main attractions in this area are ecotouristic walks to “La Copa” hill, “Pericoca” hill, “Las Cumbres de Canoabo” and “Olivitos” line in the nothern valleys; and there are other hills such as “Hilaria”, “Picacho del Diablo”, “Vigirima”, “Tronconero” and “Patanemo”. Also in Falcón state, south of Coro, there is the “Sierra de San Luis”, a mountain range with national park status. Villages such as “San Luis” and “Cabure” offer various posadas and hotels, river swimming areas, trails for trekking. This place also offers excellent birding. The Parque Nacional Cueva de Quebrada de Toro, which can only be access by four-wheel drive, has a series of caves and fascinating formations, and is home to a colony of “Guácharos”(night-flying birds). Surrounding forests are popular for camping and hiking.
All along the mountain range there is plenty of tourism opportunity for the visitor. In the Capital Caracas, mountain walk and mountain climbing in El Avila, are among the favorite sports. There are several access paths to the mountain from La Castellana (to Sabas-Nieves), el Marquéz (La Julia), and San Bernardino. Four-wheel drive vehicles have access to Galipanes, a mountain village which has become a tourist spot, and all the way to the Humboldt Hotel, and through the old mountain road to La Guaira. In Aragua state, the Codazzi mountain is a natural monument and a water reservoir. There are adventure tours that start from “La Colonia Tovar”. Besides its exuberant nature, the Codazzi mountain also has over 800 pre-Hispanic paintings left on many rocks by the natives. But when it comes to adventure in the mountains, there is no place compared to Mérida. Mérida has many peaks and 76 mountains of more than 4,000 meters above sea level, ideal for any adventure sport. The Sierra Nevada is the favorite one among local and foreign climbers. With more than 186,446 hectares, it has beautiful and impressive summits, including Pico Bolívar, the highest in the country (5,007 meters). Forest, lagoons, deer and condors complement the remarkable beauty of this mountain chain. Myriad’s Mountain Guides Association is a must contact for anyone interested in doing adventure tourism in the Mérida mountains. Rock climbing is another sport commonly practiced in Mérida. The best place to do this sport are Sierra Nevada and Sierra La Culata. At Valle Grande, just 15 minutes from Mérida city, rock climbing classes are available. Mérida is also a privileged state for mountain cycling. Recently, there are two kinds of mountain cycling: The cyclotourist and the competition ones. Sportive fishing is also a popular sport that can be practice in the Andean rivers and lakes, or in the Valleys’jungles.
The Coast and the beaches
The beach is the favorite spot for most Venezuelans. Venezuela along its long coastline facing the Caribbean, has hundreds of beautiful beaches reachable by car, most of them suitable also for children with little danger from waves. Regretfully, many are located close to towns without waste water treatment plants and the waters are often polluted. Several outlying islands, reachable either by road or by airplane, provide fabulous diving and snorkeling opportunities. While there are water sports such as windsurfing and boat rides, the coastal waters are not suitable for intensive surfing with the waves too low. There are many marinas and these provide facilities for the many boat and yacht owners, many accepting visiting boaters providing tie-down and fuel service.
The closest beaches to Caracas lie along the Litoral Central, just 40 minutes away from the city. This area was devastated during the 1999 floods and rock slides. Work is under way to repair the disaster area, but the progress has been slow and inefficient. Hotels and private beach clubs are currently being refurbished. Before the tragedy, much of the coast, except Macuto, had always been too rocky for good swimming, and sometimes the beaches near La Guaira were badly polluted. Among the most popular beaches in the Litoral there are: Naiguatá, Los Cocos and Playa los Angeles (for surfing), Marina Grande, Camurí Chico, Pantaleta and Los Caracas. There are also private clubs with all sort of lodging and sportive facilities available such as: Camurí, Playa Azul, Puerto Azul, Playa Grande, Caraballeda and Tanaguarena. Even further east there are also secluded beaches that can only be accessed on a four-wheel drive in Todassana, La Sabana, and Caruao, among others.
In the East coast of the country there are various alternatives for beach-goers: In the Barlovento area surf-lovers can find the wavy beaches of Chirimena, families with young children can enjoy the calm waters of Higuerote, and those who prefer a peaceful place can find it in the 28 Km solitary shoreline in the outer banks of the Laguna de Tacarigua. Puerto Píritu is a typical Venezuelan coastal town that has become increasingly tourist. Offshore there are small islands that can be reached by motor boats. The hour-long drive between Puerto La Cruz and Cumaná with the sea on one side and the mountain on the other is known as “The Route of the Sun”. This zone also enjoys protection under its status as Mochima National Park, which includes 94,935 hectares of continental and insular area. Along the most popular continental beaches there are Playa Colorada, Arapita, and Santa Fe. There are also many insular popular beaches that can be accessed by a shuttle service to the island from the village of Mochima: Caracas, Picuda Grande, Mono, Chimanas, Venado and Borrachas, are the most visited ones. In Puerto La Cruz, there is “ El Morro” a beach complex with many beach hotels, residential, restaurant, shopping, marinas, and entertainment facilities available.
Margarita island, known as “La Perla del Caribe” has become one of Venezuela’s prime vacation destinations for national and international visitors alike. Indeed it is ringed by kilometers of white sand beaches, with excellent waters for windsurfing, interesting historical sites, duty-free shopping and accommodations ranging from intimate posadas to luxurious megaresorts with night life entertainment. Well known hotel chains such as The Hilton, Hesperia, Barceló and Best Western have excellent infrastructure. Playa El Agua is by far the most popular beach, lined with casual seafood restaurants and tropical music. For a quiet escape, the Macanao Peninsula, with La Restinga National Park, is the perfect spot. National airlines, such as Avensa, Aeropostal, Acerca and Láser serve the island from Caracas and Avior flies passengers from other cities. Visitors can also travel to Margarita from Caracas and Puerto La Cruz by sea via Conferry.
On the west coast there are popular beaches in Aragua state, such as Cata, Cuyuagua, El Playón, Puerto Colombia, Chuao, and Cepe, which are accessed via the spectacular Henri Pitier National Park, a protected natural zone since 1937. Cata, although short of lodging, is one of the most attractive beaches in Venezuela, and Cuyuagua is considered one of the best surfing beaches. The Choroní village is one of the principal destinations, with many confortable inns available that offer affordable tour packages for the visitor. 60% of Choroní visitors are nationals, while the remaining 35% are from the U.S. and Western European countries. Choroní has good public services, gastronomy, and small handicraft shops. From Playa Colombia, boatmen can be contracted to take the tourist to the isolated villages of Chuao and Cepe, only accessible by sea. Covering an area of 32, 090 hectares of continental, insular and marine surface located between the towns of Tucacas and Chichiriviche in Falcón state, Morrocoy National Park is one of the country’s principal coastal destinations. Besides the cerro Chichiriviche and the Cueva de los Indios cave, visitors flock to the park’s islands and keys in Golfo Triste. Shuttle boats take visitors to the islands, some of which are mostly sand, shaded with coconut palm, while others are largely covered with mangrove. Camping is allowed on certain islands and keys, but only with a permit in advance from Imparques. “Cayo Sombrero” is the most visited, however there are many more such as “Cayo Animas”, “Roca Grande”, “Playuelita”, “Boca Seca”, “Playa Norte”, “Cayo Muerto”, and “Cayo Pelón” among others. In Falcón state, going north of the Paraguaná peninsula, beyond Parque Nacional Los Medanos de Coro, with its sand dunes that reach 25 meters, there is a 30 Km long isthmus. On the east side of the isthmus there are windswept beaches with driftwood and beautiful small shells. On the west, beaches of calm waters. “Adícora” is a target for windsurfing and those interested in colonial architecture.
Just 40 nautical miles north of Caracas, the 40 islands of Los Roques Archipielago National Park is truly a marine paradise. It is easily accessible by a 35-minute hop by regular commercial flights and charters. Atoll formations, warm calm crystalline waters of blue, turquoise and emerald shades, along with the abundant presence of coral, tubular sponges, sea anemones, huge lobsters and crabs, barracudas and other tropical marine species, make Los Roques a unique place for snorkeling and scuba diving lovers. Los Roques is not cheap, and none of the lodging is luxurious. There is no shade, nor any commercial night life or shopping. More than 40 posadas are currently operating on “Gran Roque” offering packages with breakfast, dinner and a boat included. Fishing packages are also available, but more expensive.
The Venezuelan government protects and encourages national and foreign investment. In 1999 the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frías enacted a decree with the force of law to guarantee protection for both national and foreign investment in the country. According to the SIEX (Superintendencia de Inversiones Extranjeras), a government regulatory institution for foreign investments, foreign companies willing to invest in Venezuela must comply with: A certified copy of the commercial registration of the local company recipient of the investment, a certified copy of the commercial registration of the foreign company certified by the consular office of the country where the investment is originated, a power of attorney of the foreign’s company legal in Venezuela, and a request to qualify the company before local authorities.
The “Corporación de Turismo de Venezuela” (Corpoturismo), is in charge of executing tourism policy in the country. One of Corpoturismo’s main objectives is to encourage investment in the sector. There are several fiscal incentives oriented to achieve this objective. One of them is the exemption from the value added tax for tourism projects, such as lodging establishments certified by Corpoturismo. There is also an income tax deduction equivalent to 75% of the total amount invested in the construction, or the improvement of lodging facilities; this incentive also applies for investments in tourism services and work force training. Imports of new ships, airplanes and vehicles for tourism public transportation purposes for no less than 15 years are exempt from all custom duties. Among other incentives, tourism service providers will be exempt from the business assets tax, as long as their companies fulfill registration requirements with the National Tourism Registry. Additionally, there are tax incentives for investments in areas under a special tax scheme for example in Margarita in Nueva Esparta state, and Paraguaná in Falcón state. In Paraguaná for example, investments in tourism services are exempt from income tax for ten years, imported goods used with tourism purposes are exempt from customs duties, goods for personal and household purposes are exempt from customs duties as well. Tourists can leave the peninsula with products valued up to 100 tax units, free of charge, as long as the luggage contents are for personal use. Besides the tax brakes, the legal picture has been improved through various multilateral and bilateral investment agreements, to avoid double taxation, and passenger transportation. Approximately half of these agreements have been signed with European nations. The United States signed a Bilateral Tourism Agreement in 1989, but it has not been implemented so far.
It is important to note that despite all the incentives the government claims, anyone investing in Venezuela should first carefully evaluate the political and economical climate in the country. At the present time, laws are changing constantly and the new Tourism Law is still a project. Some previous project laws have been turned down by the private sector, because they argued that the time frame for fiscal incentives on long-term tourism projects is too short (3-8 years). Also the private sector is looking for a tourism law that should consider aviation and environmental issues into its framework. Until the new law is passed, there is a degree of uncertainty in the sector. On behalf of the government much has been said, nothing has been done so far.
Corpoturismo has approximately 3,000 private projects available for potential investors. Most of these projects are lodging facilities of all sorts, including some nice resorts. Many of these projects fulfill all the registration requirements, and have the economic and feasibility studies ready. The common complaint is the lack of financing to complete or implement a project. Local financing is limited and expensive. Variable interest rates of 30% and 3 years term contracts can hardly meet the needs of long-term projects. Many local companies are looking for strategic partnerships with foreign companies willing to put their resources and expertise into their projects.
Among other problems facing the industry there are: The lack of an economic model to integrate all the sectors involved in tourism in a coherent fashion, financial weakness of local tourism institutions, lack of uniform rules, inadequate physical infrastructure, limited public investment on tourism, incomplete or questionable projects, limited access to information and the lack of technical expertise in project evaluation by institutional employees. To all these problems it is important to add the lack of a “culture of service” in Venezuela which has constituted a major obstacle in the development of the tourism industry. Also personal safety has inhibited tourism activity substantially. These two issues must be addressed by the local government to create a welcoming atmosphere for the investor.
The tourism industry in Venezuela is still in a developing stage. There are significant opportunities throughout the full spectrum of tourism services in Venezuela, and many more will surge as the market matures and becomes more sophisticated. Among some of the opportunities in the Venezuelan market there are: infrastructure facilities for resort complexes; construction and service for beach facilities; hotel and casino management/design; franchise budget hotels; ferry transportation favored by recent deregulation of this sector; marina services; recreational activities and recreational transportation such as cars, boats and aircraft; rentals of sport equipment; theme and water parks; architectural design services; environmental technology and consultancies; there is also potential for human resources development and training.
The Venezuelan government has developed a Strategic Tourism Plan whose main objective is to develop sustainable tourism spaces by promoting public and private investment in tourism infrastructure and services. These include: An environmental tourist center in Falcón state, and the Tortuga island, and sustainable tourism development in Sucre state, the states along the “Ruta Libertadora”(Barinas, Lara, Mérida, Portuguesa, Táchira and Trujillo), the Corredor turístico Santa Elena de Uairén-Puerto Ordaz, the Eje Apure-Orinoco (Apure, Guayana, South Anzoátegui and South Monagas).
The Venezuelan government has a series of infrastructure projects that may open up opportunities for investors. These projects are: Improvements to the infrastructure of the hotel Prado del Rio, hotel Escuela in Los Andes and hotel Aguas Calientes in Táchira state. These hotels also need equipment and refurbishment of the installations. There are also projects for the recuperation of the Caraballeda and Cumanagoto marinas located in La Guaira and Cumaná respectively.
In Nueva Esparta, the government recently announced a tourism pilot project that includes several individual projects that may open up opportunities for U.S. companies. These projects are: A convention-theater center in the facilities of was used to be a dog-racing stadium, this project also includes a five-star hotel. A project to rescue the “Ciudad Vacacional de los Niños”in the Coche island next to Margarita that will serve as a recreational center for children. The creation of the “Universidad del Caribe”, a university exclusively oriented to form professionals in the tourism and technology fields. A project to use the facilities of the hotels Kamarata and Tamarindo for tourism training purposes. There is also a plan to recuperate some beach facilities, currently managed by Corpoturismo such as: the marina “Playa El Agua”, “Playa Guacuco” and the marina “El Anzuelo”. Also USD 550,000 have been assigned to an environmental program to clean up Margarita’s beaches.
In Vargas state, Corpovargas the local authority responsible for the recuperation of La Guaira after the 1999 disaster, has funds available to implement a major plan that includes several individual projects. One of them is a hotel with a golf course in Los Caracas area.
La Tortuga project, an island off the central coast of Venezuela, is to be given under a concession scheme to private-sector operators for its integral development into a world class facility, combining low-rise buildings with marinas, golf courses and recreational sports areas.
The Paraguaná project calls for eight (8) sections with varied developments ranging from Aruba-Cancún like resorts with golf courses, international hotels, and casinos, up to ecotourism areas. There are areas where historic monuments have been restored and turned into tourists inns, There are also tourism developments around a seaport for cruise liners, boulevards, malls and a convention center. These are some details about these projects:
Project: Projecto Playa Norte – Chichiriviche – Falcón state
Status: Feasibility studies completed, requires and environmental study
Description: A Planned tour center: hotel with 4,400 rooms, marinas, golf courses and hopping malls
Investment: USD 319 million – first stage: USD 201 million
Requirement: Strategic alliances and joint venture
Project: Projecto Isle La Tortuga
Status: Master plan and strategic environment evaluation ready, engineering study pending
Description: Hotels and other lodging with capacity for 1,500 rooms, recreational areas, golf and tennis courts, seaport and airport
Investment: USD 300 million – USD 170 million on first stage
Requirement: Strategic alliances and joint venture
Project: Orinokia Mall & Hotel Covention Center – Ciudad Guayana Status: First stage and master plan completed.
Description: 500 room hotel, a convention center and a 2.5 Hectare park
Investment: USD 300 million
Requirement: Strategic partnership and investors
Contact: Vallario Arquitecto-
Av. Libertador, entre Av. Las Acacias y las Palmas, edif. Yetesa, piso 1, Urb. Las Palmas- Caracas, Venezuela
Phone: (58) (212) 782-6621/ 782-6069
Project: Complejo Turístico Bahía Caribana – Falcón state
Status: Master plan completed. Environmental & engineer projects in process
Description: 1,080 acres for a tourist complex, with beach, hotels and condominiums, golf courses, marinas, sport centers,etc
Investment: Land properties prices rank from USD 342,000 to USD 660,000
Requirement: Investors to purchase land to develop projects
Contact: Diego Beltrán
Centro comercial El Placer, ofic. 1, calle sur, Caracas 1080, Venezuela
Phones: (58) (212) 962-0509 - Fax: (58) (212) 962-0811
E-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Project: Caribean Marina Beach – Falcón state
Status: Already operating.
Description: Tourist complex with 2.4 hectare of private beach, and 2.5 Km of water canals, a hotel, 78 town houses and 10 residential buildings. A marina, and a casino are part of the project
Investment: so far over USD 80 million have been invested by sponsors
Requirement: A hotel operator with the know how to finish the hotel and build a casino - Also investors to build and operate a marina
Contact: Ins. Jorge or Enrique Hems
Phone: (58) (241) 857-0641 or 857-0492
Project: KoKobay and KoKobay Casino - Margarita
Status: Feasibility study and permits ready
Description: Two hotels: a 254 rooms four star and 205 room five star hotel with beach.
Investment: USD 8 million and USD 18 million respectively
Requirement: Investors and partnerships
Contact: Richard Martinez –
Name: Dr. Nelson Salvatierra - President
Address: Parque Central, Torre Oeste, Piso 37, Presidencia, Caracas, Venezuela
Phone: (58-212) 574-1968/ 573-6408
Fax: (58-212) 574-2220/ 574-2679
Name: Econ. Antonio Tol – Chief of Project Divison
Address: Parque Central, Torre Oeste, Piso 37, Presidencia, Caracas, Venezuela
Phone: (58-212) 574-1968/ 573-6408
Fax: (58-212) 574-2220/ 574-2679
Institution: CORPORACION DE TURISMO DE NUEVA ESPARTA
Name: Arq. Yomana Koteich - President
Address: Av. Jóvito Villalba, Centro Artesanal Gilberto Menchini, local 18, Los Robles, Nueva Esparta
Phone: (095) 262-2322/ 262-3098/ 262-2514
Institution: CAMARA DE TURISMO DEL ESTADO NUEVA ESPARTA
Name: Tony Sciortino - President
Address: Final Av. Santiago Marino, cruce con Amador Hernández, Porlamar
Phone: (095) 263-9024
Institution: SECRETARIA DE DESARROLLO ECONOMICO ESTADO CARABOBO
Name: Lic. Fátima Vieira – Tourism Executive Director
Address: Av. Boívar, torre Valencia, piso 6, oif. 6-A, Valencia - Carabobo
Phone: (5841) 8243166 - 8257064
Name: Gerardo Rico – Planing and Development Manager
Address: Complejo Cultural Josefa Camejo, Pueblo Nuevo de Paraguaná, Edo. Falcón
Phone: (5869) 81-130/ 81-231
Institution: INSTITUTO AUTONOMO DE PUERTO CABELLO
Name: Rafael Palacios
Address: Calle Puerto cabello, Edificio Sede Puerto Cabello, Estado Carabobo
Phone: (5842) 61-7192 / 61-8476
Fax: (5842) 61-8496
Name: Ing. Alvaro Montenegro
Address: Sede Avavit, 6ta. av. Entre 6ta y 7ma tranversal, quinta #17, Altamira , Caracas
Phone: (58) (212) 261-7861 / 261- 1845
Name: Eduardo Bermudez
Address: Hotel Caracas Hilton, torre Sur, piso 4, of. 424, Caracas
Phone: (58) (212) 503-5422 / 4524
Fax: (58) (212) 503-5424
Institution: ACATURVEN (Asociacion de Camaras Regionales de Turismo)
Name: Alvaro Montenegro
Address: Hotel CCCT Best Western, Caracas, Venezuela
Phone: (58-212) 902-8008
Company: ALAV (Asociación de Líneas Aéreas de Venezuela)
Name: Jorge Andrade
Address: Boulevard de Sabana Grande, Galerías Bolívar, Edif A, Piso 1, Of 11-A, Caracas, Venezuela
Phone: (58-212) 762-8551/ 762-0294
Company: FENAHOVEN (Asociacion Nacional de Hoteles de Venezuela)
Name: Hugo Arriojas
Address: Torre Oeste Mezz. 2, Local 2, Parque Central, Caracas, Venezuela
Phone: (58-212) 574-5494/ 574-5672/ 574-3994
Fax: (58-212) 574-4094
Company: ASOTUCANES (Asociación Venezolana de Turismo Cientifico, Aventura, Naturalista y Social
Name: Claus Moller
Address: Calle Cervantes con Miguel Angel, Edif. Gracia, Local A, PB Colinas de Bello Monte, Caracas, Venezuela
Phone: (58-212) 752-7551/ 751-1152
Company: AVAVIT (Asociación Venezolana de Agencias de Viajes y Turismo)
Name: Morella Strauss
Address: Candes Turismo 6th Avenida, Quinta No. 17. Altamira (Diagonal a la Clinica Avila), Caracas, Venezuela
Phone: (58-212) 261-1845/ 6837/ 9781
Fax: (58-212) 261-0821
E-mail: email@example.com / http://www.viajes-venezuela.com/avavit
Company: AVECINTEL (Asociación Venezolana de Hoteles Cinco Estrellas)
Name: Ana Chacare de Tapia - Executive Director
Address: Hotel Tamanaco Inter-Continental Officina Ejecutiva No. 1. Las Mercedes, Caracas, Venezuela
Phone: (58-212) 909-8909/ 8910
Fax: (58-212) 909-8911
Company: AVOCA (Asociación Venezolana de Organizadores de Congresos , exposiciones y afines
Name: Bertha García
Address: Av. Humboldt, Conjunto Breto, Qta. # 4, P.B. Bello Monte, Caracas, Venezuela
Phone: (58-212) 763-5078
Fax: (58-212) 763-1497