Is tourism bouncing back to ‘no go’ Venezuela?

Is tourism bouncing back to ‘no go’ Venezuela?

“Armed robbery, mugging, carjacking and burglary are all very common and often accompanied by extreme violence” – so warns the UK Foreign Office in its travel advice for of Venezuela.

The FCDO warns against travel to the the troubled South American nation.

Yet package holidaymakers from Europe are flocking to Venezuela’s Caribbean beaches, mountains and wilderness – with tourism operators assuring prospective visitors they will be safe.

“Venezuela is completely open for tourism all around the country,” said Blas Fabian of HoverTours – a long-established tour operator based in the capital, Caracas.

Mr Fabian was speaking to The Independent at the Latin American Travel Association’s Expo 2024 in Windsor.

“We are running an operation from Poland”, he added. Charter flights are operating from Warsaw and Katowice to Caracas, with 11 different tour options.

“Now we are also handling people from Spain and Portugal. We are reopening tourism all over Venezuela.”

In the 1990s, Venezuela was the first South American destination for many British holidaymakers – partly because the now-defunct national airline, Viasa, offered the most competitive fares from the UK to the nation.

But as the economy slumped and crime increased, tourism collapsed. Many travellers have switched from Venezuela to neighbouring Colombia, which is now seen as a relatively safe country.

At the same event, Daniel Santin from the destination marketing company Inspiring Destinations said tourists could help with Venezuela’s recovery.

“Without the support of the travellers in the destination, there’s more and more struggle,” he said.

“So travelling to Venezuela will enrich your life, plus enrich people’s life on the ground.

“Safety comes first. We know where to take people. We know the places to avoid.”

The attractions of Venezuela range from superb beaches and rich heritage to high-altitude adventures – including Roraima, the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. This is the location for the Angel Falls – at 3,211 feet, the world’s highest waterfall.

But normal travel insurance will not be valid due to the Foreign Office “no-go” warning. The current travel advice warns of several particular perils:

  • Basic public services including health care and security, and the supply of electricity, water and fuel, have deteriorated.
  • Venezuela has one of the highest murder rates in the world.
  • Armoured vehicles are commonly used in Caracas, especially after dark and for transport to and from the airport.
  • Fuel shortages are common across all parts of the country.

The Wigan-based adventure operator, Lupine Travel, is planning its next departure to Venezuela in October. The 12-day trip costs £2,195, excluding air fares.