Benjamín Liberoff, Uruguay’s Vice Minister of Tourism, in this interview illustrates how the popular destination has changed over the years, what makes it unique in South America and where he likes to spend his own vacation.
Our interview with Benjamín Liberoff is part of a special series and report on Uruguay.
Benjamin, you are Uruguay’s Vice Minister of Tourism since 2016. Do you remember what triggered your interest in working in travel and tourism?
I remember it perfectly well, it was working with UNESCO for the International Youth Year and the Geneva informal meeting of organizations of students and young people.
How has Uruguay as destination changed over the years?
Dramatically in the number of visitor arrivals: 2.1 million in 2005 compared to 4.2 million visitors in 2018.
Concerning foreign currencies earned through tourism, there was also a substantial increase, from US$ 540 million to US$ 2.3 billion in the same period of time.
Which aspect would you consider the most crucial for the sustainable development of Uruguay as tourist destination?
It is really important to maintain a strong reputation of our brand “Uruguay Natural” associated with quality of life.
Imagine you meet a group of discerning travelers at a travel show like ITB in Berlin. What would you tell them, to convince them to visit Uruguay?
I would highlight the geographical proximity of our natural and cultural attractions, our gastronomy associated with the “gaucho” traditions, and the ability to visit a unique Art Deco district, not to be found anywhere else in South America.
Attracting the “right” visitors has become a key priority for destinations keen to strengthen their competitiveness and resilience. How does the government approach this task?
By adopting medium- to long-term planning, first to the year 2020, and now looking towards 2030.
We also put a stronger focus now on promoting activities like bird watching, and the human scale of our destination, which is characterized by affection and good treatment.
Having been involved with Uruguay Natural since its inception, to your mind, how important is it for the country?
Our country brand “Uruguay Natural” adds value to the entire international effort of the country, be it attracting foreign investment, facilitating exports or attracting more tourists. It also stands for efficiency and effectiveness in management.
How has the country’s reputation as destination for MICE changed over the years?
Historically Uruguay has been an important destination for international events, with privileged positions in the ICCA ranking.
The incorporation of two specialized facilities – Centro de Convenciones y Ferias de Punta del Este and the poly-functional complex ANTEL-ARENA in Montevideo – has helped to position the country as an excellent place for hosting fairs and congresses.
Looking forward, which tendencies do you observe in Uruguay at the moment, which might support its competitiveness as tourist destination?
The “quality of life” that Uruguay offers and the increasing diversification of options throughout the territory make the country an emergent, privileged destination. And one which is strategically located in the region, with an incomparable human scale. Its short distances make Uruguay something singular in South America, only comparable perhaps with countries like New Zealand or Switzerland.
Where does a Vice Minister of Tourism take a vacation to disconnect and recharge batteries?
This year, after ITB, I will visit my family in Prague, which will allow me to tour several territories in its proximity.
Thank you, Benjamín.
Our interview with Benjamín Liberoff is part of our special report on Uruguay. More info about the country and its appeal as place to visit, invest or live in, here.