The former Undersecretary of Tourism Benjamín Liberoff criticized the way in which the current administration of the Ministry of Tourism (Mintur) is processing the data of entry and exit to the country and said that Uruguay it could be “walking for the first time on the parapet of having a negative tourist balance”.
Liberoff was national director of Tourism during the presidency of José Mujica (2010-2015) and undersecretary of the portfolio during the last administration of Tabaré Vázquez between 2015 and 2020.
In dialogue with The Observerthe former hierarch showed his disagreement with the statements of the current Minister of Tourism, Tabaré Vierawho positively valued the tourist movement at Easter and described it as being “almost at the pre-pandemic level”.
According to Liberoff, from December to date, the Mintur has not provided specific data on the movement of people from and out of the country but has only dealt with migration numberswhich they are not debugged hence they do not allow measuring the “real impact” that the item has on the country’s economy.
The former chief pointed out that before the reports published by the Mintur quarterly basis were based on “two numbers“: on the one hand “those that migrations provides that are filtered with certain criteria” and then linked it to the “sample design, between 21,000 and 23,000 annual survey samples”.
“When migration gives you numbers, in reality, the Uruguayans who go abroad and return are being incorporated and they are not tourists, that is why you have to do the surveys to be able to refine the numbers.”, he expressed.
And he explained: “From that came the data that has to do with the number of Uruguayans residing abroad who come to Uruguay to spend vacationswhich is considered tourists. The linked with personal spendingthe groupto the destinations that were going Y outgoing tourism numbers in general”.
This methodology has been applied forat least 25 years”, pointed out Liberoff and indicated that based on these data Reports were generated that were subsequently submitted to the Central Bank of Uruguay (BCU), which took them “for the purposes of national accounts”.
The impact of tourism on the Uruguayan economy, according to the latest yearbook published by the Mintur in 2019, it was 7.1%. In turn, there was a tourist balance surpluswhich are the expenses of visitors in Uruguay minus the expenses incurred by residents outside the country, of US$563 million.
“If in Uruguay tourism implied those numbers and today there are no figures, the values that are being handled on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), income and others are on one leg, because tourism historically in recent years represented more than 50% of service exports and today there is no data”, said the former undersecretary of Tourism.
For Liberoff, the data provided today by the Mintur they have no sustenance so it is necessary that “clarify” about what you are doing. “With the situation we had in the first quarter of departure of Uruguayans abroad we run the risk that we are walking for the first time on the parapet of having a negative tourist balance”, he alerted.
According to figures released by the Ministry of Interior, there were a total of 161,838 people what chose Uruguay as a destination for Easter 2022. In addition, there was a similar number of people who left Uruguayan borders in the same period: there were 161,531. In both cases, the vast majority were of Uruguayan nationality.
“Measuring the number of Uruguayans who left only in tourism, they are practically the same who left than those who enteredLiberoff said. And he questioned: “When it is sometimes said that we are going back to the pre-pandemic, I really don’t know what number they are talking about”.
Criticism of the “dismantling” of social tourism
For the former head of the Front, taking into account the need that has existed to promote domestic tourism to mitigate the impact of the pandemic in Uruguay, he himself “has been little stimulated”.
Along these lines, he said that in Uruguay “dismantled” social tourism when it would have been important to take advantage of “the experience of social tourism to extend it to domestic tourism”.
In turn, he exemplified with countries that he considered had worked well in this regard: “In Argentina advance packages are being sold where discounts are made. In Spain, there is the tourism program of the Institute for the Elderly and Social Services (Imserso) where 35% of the cost of special packages related to domestic tourism is subsidized.”.
On the other hand, Liberoff criticized that in the last Rendering of Accountsthe Mintur has boasted of having saved $130 million. “We have a devastated tourism sector and the ministry goes and proclaims glad that it had saved” that moneyhe questioned.
Support measures for the tourism sector
This discount of nine percentage points of VAT applies to gastronomic services, leasing of vehicles without a driver and mediation services in the leasing of real estate for tourist destinations. Also included in the benefit are catering services and other services provided for parties and events.