learns to diversify after turbulent political times

Introduction - Infrastructure - Tourism - Diversification - Reforms and deregulation -
The states
- Technology - The information age - Business - Outlook

welcome to Venezuela

Venezuela is not east of the earthly paradise.
It is paradise.
The Caribbean's longest beaches.
Three thousand Kilometres of crystalline waters and sands of every colour
Possible. Half-million square kilometres of virgin jungle, possessing the most amazing secrets of water and vegetation - of life itself.
Rivers like oceans and a geography that is unique on earth.
Visiting Venezuela is not just tourism.
Venezuela is another world.
We welcome you with the conviction that you will enjoy,
With intensity, our country's marvels …

And you'll never forget us.

The Contrast of the Tropics

To travel across this country of 916,445 square kilometres is to travel across a country of surprising contrasts. With a population of over 20 million, Venezuela is a land where you may find beaches of pure, white sand and transparent waters, the thickest, greenest of jungles, or a desert of shifting mountains that the winds are constantly transforming.

Located on the Tropic of Cancer, between 10° and 12° North latitude and 60° and 73° longitude West, Venezuela is a tropical Caribbean nation, a country of eternal sunshine and permanent springtime temperatures.

In each of its regions you will be pleasantly surprised at finding hospitable people, always determined to show the country's most remote and original spots: The riverbank where the townspeople gather to prepare a delicious "hervido" (stew), a mountain which holds the secrets of a region's climate, barren plains being crossed by cattle herds, restaurants with the tastiest of typical cuisines, the hammock weaver or fabric maker, beaches that are lined with palms of the sweetest, juiciest coconuts surrounded by some of the Caribbean's best fishing waters. Venezuelans will also treat you to the hot, enticing rhythms of their tropical music, the colourful attractions of their carnivals and festivities, and the excitement of their "toros coleados" (Venezuelan rodeo). They will tell you where to find the finest cheeses or the spiciest hot sauces or the most exotic fruit juices. They will share with you their impressions of the latest sporting events, tips on the horse races, the best beaches for surfing, or the best time of day for deep-sea fishing.

This country of contrasts in the Caribbean has opened its doors in order to offer its hospitality, share its geography, reveal its imagination and dance its folklore with you.

Eco-tourism needed to preserve biodiversity

Despite amazing biodiversity and some of the best beaches in the Caribbean, Venezuela's tourism industry has traditionally lost out to the mighty petroleum sector in the struggle for political allies and government funding.

Disappointingly, tourism receipts bring in less than 1% of Venezuela's $100 billion GDP, despite its sprawling network of 26 national parks and beautiful colonial architecture.

Today, the government of President Hugo Chavez says that it hopes to reverse that trend by ploughing money into reviving the industry and attracting foreign investment in eco and adventure tourism.

Several difficult years including a biting recession in 1998 and coastal mudslides in 1999 created a dramatic slowing in the number of both local and international tourists.

"We are trying to relaunch Venezuela with a new image, and to try and reshape it as a tourist destination," says Eduardo Bermudez, Director of Fondoturismo, a government agency ascribed to Corpoturismo, part of Venezuela's Production and Commerce ministry. Bermudez says his first task is to complete a national survey of the nation's tourist sites and facilities.
Tourism operators including national park directors, hotel owners and tour guides are being asked to give their ideas and impressions of what areas need improvement.
A dearth of information on Venezuela's tourist attractions, specifically information available via the internet is something that the state-funded tourism corporation, Corpoturismo, is aiming to change.

Mr. Angel Salvatierra, the President of Corpoturismo

"By the end of next year we should have a complete virtual library on destinations and services," says Angel Salvatierra, the President of Corpoturismo. In addition, the agency will spend millions of dollars visiting international tourism fairs to promote Venezuela as well as its embassies overseas.
He points out that few people know that Venezuela is home to the tallest waterfall in the world, Angel Falls, the biggest lake in South America, Lake Maracaibo, as well as the world's highest and longest cable car in mountainous Merida state. Bringing that information to a wider audience will increase visitors, they reason.

"Apart from the traditional destinations of sun and sand, Venezuela has five different eco-systems and is unique in this respect within Latin America," Corpoturismo's Salvatierra says.

He adds that the Chavez government has decided to focus on promoting low impact and environmentally aware tourism, eschewing the mass tourism practised by Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
Controlling numbers and encouraging those with high spending power and an appreciation of nature will lessen damage to the landscape, local indigenous tribes and culture.

"Now we have come to understand that the pristine and virgin nature of what we have to offer is very attractive to new kinds of tourism," Bermudez says. "We have a sustainable future when it comes to tourism ... We can have controllable tourism that will ensure low volumes and low impact on the environment."

Regarded as a tourist institution in Venezuela since it first came to the country in 1969, the Hilton hotel chain currently runs three five star hotels: one on the holiday island of Margarita, one in central Caracas and one based in the central western city of Barquisimiento.

"The Caracas Hilton: An institution in Venezuelan Tourism"

Its five hotels have a pool, gym and business centre, one of the most important aspects of business life, according to Sebastiao Nunes, General Manager of the Caracas Hilton.

The hotel was the site of last year's massive heads of state OPEC meeting, which brought the 12 members of the oil cartel and their entourages together.
"We have the largest ballroom in Venezuela and can hold up to 3,000 people and is normally used for fairs and large corporate events," he says.

Nunes says that people come to the Hilton because they trust the brand and know that service is of premium importance.

The northern coast of Aragua, Miranda and Carabobo States also have long stretches of sandy beaches that may be reached by driving through mountains or exuberant natural reserves like Hanry Pittier National Park. Choroni Beach in Aragua offers, perhaps, the area's best facilities. But equally beautiful are Cata, Ocumare de la Costa and Cuyagua, not to mention Chuao, Copo, Oricao and Aroa which are only reachable by boat, making them all the more enchanting for their pristine state and solitude.

Also well known are the river pools with their clean, cool waters which fall from the mountains, forming natural pools among the rocks and luscious vegetation.
Famous in Miranda are the Canals of Rio Chico and Tacarigua Lagoon where great fishing and colourful birds will amaze you. The area is also famous for its crabmeat and local cuisine. Since the Central Coastal bays are generally lined with palm trees, you will always be able to relax in the shade, lying in a hammock, sipping a fruit juice or a cocktail.

Venezuela is a country that has a lot of good opportunities, wonderful people and all of this has not been exposed enough. Four Seasons is not here for any specific reason, it happened by coincidence. There is definitely a need in Caracas in having an up scale hotel, commented Yves Giacometti, General Manager of the recently opened hotel. We are looking for different markets, so coincidence and good opportunity of course are reasons why we came to this continent of South America.

"Sleek design", the pool at the Four Seasons.

The hotel offers exactly what the Four Seasons offers all over the world: a business centre, twenty-four hour service, a wide selection of banquet rooms, outstanding staff. Four Seasons traditionally provides excellence to its guest: to insure that all of our guests are top executives. Making sure that our staff has been properly trained with efficiency and a great sense of sensibility that is really what our business is about. Whether we are in Caracas, Los Angeles or anywhere else it will be exactly the same. We have a service second to none and that is really what has made this company successful over the years. Providing our guests with a high level of efficiency on a constant basis. We have found outstanding individuals, having worked in this industry before, Giacometti underlined.

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© World INvestment NEws, 2002.
This is the electronic edition of the special country report on Venezuela published in Forbes Global Magazine.
April 2002 Issue.
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