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PCR, photos of accommodation, insurance, visas among 7 obstacles that sink tourism

Marco Belmonte / La Paz

Requirement for photographs of the tourist’s whereabouts, PCR tests, health insurance, visas, frequent and direct flight failures due to the monopoly of the state airline, reduction of daily flight frequency from abroad, lack of reactivation policy and promotion. These factors plunge tourism in Bolivia.

According to tour operators, travel agencies, hotels and airlines, these are at least seven problems that limit the arrival of more tourists and slow down the reactivation of the industry, which after two years of pandemic is still in crisis.

Jorge Valle, President of the Bolivian Airlines Association (ALA); Jorge Luis Arroyo López, President of the National Chamber of Receptive Tourism Operators (Canotur); Jaquelín Riveros, Vice President of the Bolivian Association of Reception Agencies; Luis Ampuero, President of the Bolivian Hotel Office; Marco Mercado and Patricia Céspedes, President and CEO of the Bolivian Association of Tourism and Tourism Institutions (Abavyt), expressed their concern to Página Siete.

The first problem they agree on is the Supreme Directive 4575, which provides for strict controls on the travel of tourists entering the country.

Riveros explained that guests must notify their location upon each change of hotel, put the name of the owner and take a photo of the establishment or house where they are staying. Failure to send the information will result in fines.

For example, a person who came from Peru to Electropreste in March, when he entered the country, had to fill out a form specifying the hotel where he would be staying. He later stayed in his nephew’s rented house for two weeks and had to fill out the form again with the name and ID number of the owner of the property.

Arroyo lamented that Bolivia was not a friendly country with this type of measure, because it is migration that should see the flow of people, as the tourist comes with a pre-paid program and leaves.

“There are areas like Laguna Colorada or Sajama where there is no communication or places where the internet label is canceled and the form cannot be filled out, fines are still imposed,” he said.

Riveros explained that there is no country in the world that requires this registration from tourists who come on vacation. Prior to the directive, it was customary for the hotel to send the information to the Directorate of Immigration, but now the visitor must do the same.

The second problem is the demand for the PCR test, which has already been eliminated in many countries. The third drawback is the compulsory health insurance and the fourth, the requirement for a visa for tourists from some countries such as Israel.

The fifth problem is the internal air connection. In this regard, Arroyo explained that for example, there are only BOA flights to Uyuni on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays and if you are in La Paz or Santa Cruz, you must first go to Cochabamba to reach that destination. Previously, Amazonas had two daily trips and even three during high season.

Valle pointed out that there was no direct connection with Sucre, the country’s capital. “Everyone has to go through Cochabamba and that is decided by the BOA. “Other lines such as Amaszonas or Ecojet are subject to harassment with fines, they have stopped planes, reduced the number or stopped flights,” he pointed out.

Mercado added that Rurrenabaque had not had an agile flight relationship for several months, as there is only one Ecojet flight. The road to the tourist resort is in poor condition, hotels abandoned and many travel agencies closed.

The sixth problem is the reduction in the number of international airlines and their frequency in the country. Previously, each company, Avianca, Latam, Copa, Aerolineas Argentinas, Air Europa, had up to 14 weekly international flights, Valle explained.

Some merged and now there are between two and three weeks of flights, but obstacles are placed on the company that asks to resume the frequency it already had, he said.

Avianca Colombia wants to return to running the Santa Cruz-Bogotá route, but it is limited and said it can not because it is in charge of Avianca-Ecuador. “If facilities were provided, there would be more frequencies, airlines and more passenger, tourist; “In other countries, the sky is open,” he said.

In this regard, Ampuero compared that the Dominican Republic in 2015 had more than 98,000 annual connections and 250 destinations and 23 flights to the United States (USA) per day. Previously, 17 international airlines operated in La Paz, today there are two.

The seventh problem is the lack of a reactivation policy because many companies closed down, others are in debt and had to lay off employees.

Arroyo stressed the need for a tourism recycling law because it could see “the way to create resources, plan and promote Bolivia to the world.”

Neighboring countries only need vaccinations or antigen tests

Agustín Echalar, travel planner and columnist for Página Siete, said that in neighboring countries they had eliminated some restrictions imposed by the epidemic.

“To go to Paraguay, I only needed my identity card, my vaccination card, and I stopped counting, because since I was already over 60, no yellow fever vaccine was required. It was easy and good, “he said.

However, he said the return was something else, firstly because the airline canceled the flight and provides only twice a week, and secondly because PCR was needed to return to the home country, which cost the equivalent of 300 bolivianos.

Travelers must not only present PCR, but also health insurance that covers covid treatment and record their steps with Migration. Peru only needs two doses of vaccine and a filling-in form for possible symptoms, such as Paraguay. Brazil only requests antigen tests.

“The requirements to visit Bolivia are burdensome, inconvenient and ridiculous and discourage tourists and travel agents from planning a trip around this beautiful country,” lamented Echalar.

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