Venezuela welcomes its first European cruise ship in 15 years 

The Amadea, a world cruise run by German operator and travel agency Phoenix Reisen, docked at Venezuela’s El Guamache port in the vibrant Caribbean island’s southern Margarita with 400 passengers, as the country rebuilt its tourism sector after years of economic upheaval.

A German cruise ship docked in Venezuela’s Margarita Island yesterday, the first European vessel to do so in 15 years, as the country rebuilds its tourism sector after years of economic turmoil. The once-vibrant Caribbean island’s warm, crystal-clear beaches have seen a decline in tourists over the last decade as safety concerns have grown and an unprecedented economic crisis has left hotels scrambling to provide even the most basic services, such as running water and electricity.

“We chose Margarita for tourism reasons; the island was once a well-known and popular holiday destination for Germans,” Phoenix Reisen’s director of cruising, Michael Schulze, responded to an email request for comment. “Perhaps, as the first cruise ship in a long time, we can help bring tourism back into the spotlight.” The passengers will spend the day touring local attractions before departing in the afternoon for their next destination.

In recent years, the government’s decision to allow widespread use of the US dollar has aided island business owners in improving the infrastructure of hotels, inns, and restaurants. International tourism has steadily declined, from over one million arrivals in 2013 to 429,000 in 2017, the most recent year for which Venezuela provided tourism data to the World Bank. Although no other cruise arrivals have been announced, the industry hopes that the Amadea’s visit will help rebuild trust with cruise lines, according to Leudo Gonzalez, president of the private Conseturismo tourism association. Tourism Minister Ali Padron said that the government is working to have more ships visit soon.

US sanctions against Nicolas Maduro’s administration complicate travel agencies’ efforts to reach Venezuela because all airports and ports are state controlled, according to Viviana de Vethencourt, president of Margarita’s Nueva Esparta state tourism chamber. Today, however, is a sign of hope. “Our destination is just around the corner,” she explained.


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