Good food, sports, and a charismatic president lure tourists to Uruguay

Global Business

Tourism has been a boom sector in Uruguay over the past few years, even though this year the number of visitors has been down ever so slightly. CCTV America’s Joel Richards reported this story from Montevideo, Uruguay.

Good food, sports, and a charismatic president lure tourists to Uruguay

Tourism has been a boom sector in Uruguay over the past few years, even though this year the number of visitors has been down ever so slightly. CCTV America's Joel Richards reported this story from Montevideo, Uruguay.

In the old quarter of Montevideo is the port market, a favorite among tourists for lunch during a visit to Uruguay’s capital. In Montevideo, one of the country’s specialties is on offer.

“There are restaurants, not just mine, where you are eating the top quality meat, quality that you don’t find anywhere else. That’s what the tourists tell us,” restaurant owner Carmen Posse said.

Even so, the old port market is just one of Montevideo’s attractions. One of the reasons for many visitors to travel to Uruguay in the past few years has been its charismatic leader, President Jose ‘Pepe’ Mujica.

“Tourists from Brazil, Turkey, Argentina, Venezuela, they love him, from everywhere they love him. They say they want to meet him and have a photo with him,” said Carlos, a stall owner.

The well-known president and successful national football team are just some of the factors that have led  to Uruguay’s growing popularity around the world. Tourism has grown rapidly in the past five years, expanding by 40 percent. That’s $2 billion for the country.

According to the Ministry of Tourism, the growth stems largely from the South American market. Uruguay is seen as a relaxed holiday option by its neighbors, even if this year there has been a slight dip in the number of visitors.

“Our principal market is Argentina. In the last two years, the Argentine has had difficulties with dollars, and to leave (the country),” explained Benjamin Liberoff, Uruguay’s Tourism Minister. “From that point of view, it affected the number of visitors to Uruguay. But in spite of that, the Brazilians are coming in important numbers, five years ago we received 170,000 Brazilians. Now, 400,000 Brazilians.”