The government of Uruguay announced at the end of October that the country’s borders will remain closed to non-Uruguayan citizens until at least, 2021. The measure is a major blow to the tourism industry as foreign tourists generated USD 1.7 billion in 2019 and tourist occupation in Uruguay is estimated to oscillate between 30% and 50%.
The government of Uruguay has launched the “Summer Plan” (in Spanish: Plan Verano) to incentivise Uruguayans to spend at home the USD 1.2 billion that they spend in holidays abroad each year.
The Ministry of Tourism said that the industry confirmed that there was an incredible increase in the occupation of hotels in the country, particularly in Punta del Este. The Chamber of Tourism of Uruguay stressed the importance of financial incentives such as the VAT exemption, fuel, food and restaurant subsidies.
We also spoke to the president of the Real Estate Chamber of Maldonado, where the city resort of Punta del Este, Uruguay’s main tourist destination, is located. He told us, “At the beginning of next week, we will present a common plan [alongside Uruguay’s main tourism sector stakeholders] to President Lacalle Pou so that he can open the borders to foreigners with a second residence in Uruguay.”
“Next week, we will present a common plan … [to] the President … [to] open the borders to foreigners with a second residence in Uruguay.”
President, Real Estate Chamber of Maldonado
He continued, “It is important to increase the confidence of foreign investors in Uruguayan real estate. They trusted Uruguay when they acquired their properties and we can’t let them down now. We have more than 200,000 foreign property owners in Uruguay, a country with a population of 3.5 million. In places like Punta del Este, during high season, 70% of the visitors come from abroad. It is impossible to replace these visitors with local tourists.”
“I don’t think it’s very likely that [tourism sector associations] will obtain any concession from the government.”
Tourism official, Intendencia de Maldonado
A senior official at the tourism department of the Intendencia de Maldonado told us, “There is not much we can do from the regional government. But from our meetings with tourism sector associations, we know that they will continue with their push, and they can get noisy. I don’t think it’s very likely that they will obtain any concessions from the government, despite their importance in the local economy.”