Oh, Sarah

No foreigners here

Sarah Grainger of the BBC does her best to ask the question: why don’t more tourists come to Venezuela?

However, she falls far short, mostly due to her own unforced errors.

For example, she wonders,

“Venezuela, which has one of the highest murder rates in Latin America, has certainly struggled with its reputation for violence.

But other countries have proved that a bad reputation can be overcome and even turned into an advantage.

Colombia, which suffered international headlines about guerrilla conflict and cocaine trafficking, did just that when it came up with its latest tourism campaign.

“The only risk is wanting to stay,” said the tagline on the advertisements, making an oblique reference to the worries that tourists might have about visiting a country where foreigners had been kidnapped in the past.

This daring way to sell Colombia became a story in itself, garnering plenty of extra publicity overseas for its tourism attractions.”

Um. The real struggle is against violence. It’s not a PR problem, it’s a violence problem. The reason the Colombia campaign was succesful wasn’t just that it was good PR, it was because … significant parts of Colombia became less violent!

Furthermore, Grainger doesn’t even mention the hassles one has to go through to pay with credit cards and the incredible burdens it puts on travelers.

Anyway, read the whole thing and judge for yourselves.

16 thoughts on “Oh, Sarah

  1. Just the way the Chavernment sees tourism says it all: “…a means of development and cultural interaction.” O RLY? So, normal tourists in the end are not looking for a nice place to have a good time. Nope, development and cultural interaction. Are you freakin’ kidding me?

    About the report, this video express my view. Take it away, Captain Picard:

    • My feelings exactly. This Sarah Grainger wants to appear as an objective journalist. But let’s face it, buried in her report is her twofold incentive: to publicize the Vzlan government’s efforts to promote the country at its annual tourism fair, which got underway, today (exquisite timing!), and two, to inform that Vz has teamed up with the UN’s World Tourism Organization (guao) in order to improve visitor numbers. (Good luck with that.)

      Regarding “reality tourism” … not even Cuba is that stupid. (There’s a sucker born every minute.)

      Since the early 1990′s, and as the bite of winter approaches northern latitudes, billboard ads go up in major Canadian cities, showing half-naked bodies of good looking Cubans, frolicking in the ocean and welcoming you, beer-gut Joe and Josephine Average, to enjoy Cuba’s sun and beaches and all-inclusive packages.

      • Otra cosa… Grainger finds an interviewee with limited experience in the country who reports: “Since I arrived 20 years ago, I’ve never seen any government bothered about tourism and no government has ever had a plan to effectively develop the sector and sell Venezuela as a tourist destination,” said Mr Coimbra, who heads the Caracas office of advertising agency Ogilvy Mather.

        Let’s see, Chávez has been in office about 14 years. Saying one has never seen any govt bothered about tourism is a significant stretch. Moreover, because during Caldera I and CAP I, there was a HUGE promotional push given to tourism, never mind that much of the corresponding infrastructure was a little 1/2-assed.

    • Also read this: “A propósito de ‘Venezuela: atrás en el tiempo y en el espacio’: un cruce de cartas entre los escritores Irene Zoe Alameda y Roberto Echeto” http://www.grantaes.com/?p=98
      and you”ll find out Mrs. Alameda’s writing is a fictional tale, not a detailed account of an actual trip.

      Next time check your sources for credibility, will you?

      • I agree with most of the critics against her: this so called “fictional” piece by Ms. Alameda is lame. Her article is nothing but a half-baked idea. I can’t tell if it fails because of the culture shock or because of her lack of literary talent. I’m still looking for the “surrealist” or “hilarious” elements that she mentions in her answer to Mr. Echeto.

        On the other hand, I don’t understand Mr. Echeto’s overreaction. The black market inside the airport are true. The lack of toilette paper and soap in most public restrooms is also true. The mediocrity of low-budget hotels is true. The almost complete inability to stick to a schedule is also true. Actually, Ms. Alameda critic was very limited, probably because she didn’t spend much time in Venezuela. It could have been worse.

        I think the attempt of Ms. Alameda at being hilarious failed miserably. She probably tried to go for the hyperbole and the stereotype but fell short. When the hyperbole is too close to the awful truth, it is not funny anymore. After all, what’s so funny about the other human beings living in such an unfortunate mess?

  2. “Currency controls to stop Venezuelans investing abroad mean the official rate of exchange is poor for foreigners arriving with US dollars. A sandwich and a bottle of water in a cafe in Caracas cost around $25 at the official rate.”

    She could have just stopped there…I mean, what more is there to say?

    (Possibly, “in order not to get ripped off with every single purchase, tourists must risk jail terms by buying local currency illegally.”)

    Welcome to Venezuela, the only risk is that you’ll end up staying…in Tocorón.

    • Pardon me Francisco, but why do we repeat absurdities?

      Who gets jailed for trading currency in the black market? Certainly not the guys offering to buy and sell dollars and gold outside of “Capitolio”. It’s idiotic journalism. It’s made to sound as risky as pushing crack. Well, these guys are doing just that around Venezuela’s Capitol Hill without anyone bothering them.

  3. She is also ignoring the type of violence. The guerrilla conflict in Colombia only affected certain parts of the country, Bogota has only been affected by a few terrorist attacks. In Venezuela every major city is plagued by crime, and thieves usually target foreigners following them since they arrive to the airport. She doesn’t talk about the Lack of Hotel infrastructure, the terrible service culture pretty much everywhere, unqualified and rude personnel who usually doesn’t speak a word of English or any other foreign language, terrible and very expensive airlines with Paleolithic planes. Destroyed roads. Y pare de contar

  4. If Capriles doesn’t win, I don’t know when (or if) I will ever visit Venezuela again- and I have family living there! Because if Capriles loses, it’ll show the world the majority of Venezuelans have no hope for their future. I used to work in tourism in Venezuela. I have seen the best parts of the country and agree the potential for tourism is huge.

  5. The problem with Venezuela’s tourism is infrastructure. It has always been. I don’t remember ever going to Margarita without finding a roadblock; the ferry was an inferno, or it was a hassle to get an airplane, or there was no electricity in the airport, or you have to ask a personal favor to be able to rent a car in the island at amazingly expensive rates, or water was lacking during three days of your four day vacation or there was a bat in the hotel room, or there was an army of roaches in the rented house. Of course, we accepted that because of the feeling of Margarita: the people, the accent, the beaches, the castle, the churches, the Sierra, the empanadas de cazón, the cachitos de la 4 de Mayo, the little kids telling the story of Juan Griego and the great shopping.

    But, for a tourist that does not understand that “feeling”, every trip would have been a horror story.

    I am talking of the Margarita of thirty to twenty years ago. Now, it seems that on top of that there is crime.

  6. Maybe tourists tend to notice relatively large proportions of tourists (and ordinary citizens) in Venezuela among the victims of violence and murder. News of a murdered tourist or resident countryman do tend to make the rounds in the country of origin.

    Besides, it’s not like you have to be associated to organized crime, drug cartels, guerrillas, paramilitary, or ethnic/political factions to be a likely victim of intentional homicide. Or either that keeping out of such activities will afford you a relative safety. In Venezuela you just have to be worthy of robbery (i.e. have a handful of money in pockets or a passable cellphone), to have a trigger-happy psychopath following you, you die if you don’t comply, you die if you do. And there’s no respite or safety, ever or anywhere.

  7. I should think it highly intelligent for most foreigners to avoid Venezuela entirely for one reason only: crime.

    Until that is improved, why discuss tourism?

    I like to keep it simple.

  8. Bruni:
    “The problem with Venezuela’s tourism is infraestructure”. Actually infraestructure, as hotels, posadas, restaurants and services are prefectly fine (at least they were before the expropriation of the Margarita Hilton and the use of smaller hotels for the damnificados).
    What you mean is the superstructure: all governement provided infraestructure (airport, roads, electricity, security, etc). They must be there and they must be running properly and on time in order to get tourism to work, and they are not. Last time I checked, no big airlines are flying directly to Margarita either, so getting there transferring in Maiquetia is a pain. I know because my family lives in the island and I really think it twice before I go for a visit.
    Also and I am very sad to admit, I think the worst part of the margaritenian tourism is the human resource. Everybody tries to take advantage of the tourists most especially if they don’t speak the language. Many servers in restaurants and hotels act like they are doing you a favor, and most of the time they really act as they hate their job. They forget that it is not about of getting as much money as you can, but to the get thetourist to go back, and if you don’t provide a good service at a fair price tourist won’t. This might be ok for local and national tourism who knows how to deal with it but not for international, who will compare it with other caribbean places, like Paradise island, Cancun and Jamaica, just to name a few.
    Funny to say, I’m writing these lines from the Mayan Riviera….

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