Tourism in Bolivia, which was just beginning to recover after the social and political conflicts that occurred in the country in October and November last year, is beginning to feel the impact of global measures against the coronavirus (COVID-19), with an ever-decreasing influx of travelers.
LITTLE CONCURRED STREETS
The main tourist areas in La Paz, such as Sagárnaga, Linares and Illampu streets, or the “Mercado de las Brujas” in the historic center of the city, usually overflowing with tourists, seemed less crowded this Tuesday, partly due to the rain but especially due to the restrictions applied to travelers by the COVID-19.
Very few dared to stroll along these streets where crafts and the offer of tourism services abound in Bolivia, such as trips to the Uyuni Salt Flat, hiking in nearby mountains such as Huayna Potos, or descending by bicycle along the “Carretera de Death “in the subtropical zone of the Yungas.
The influx of tourists was normalizing in recent months after the conflicts in October and November and with the decision of the Bolivian interim government to withdraw the visa for Americans and Israelis, but it has fallen again due to the coronavirus, vendors of crafts and tour operators.
THE VOICE OF THE AFFECTED
“It has decreased since the conflicts that have occurred since October, it has tried to recover more or less in January, but with this, the coronavirus has fallen again and now there are no tourists in this sector,” Boris Bartalama, owner of the El Solario agency.
According to Bartalama, at this time Latin American tourists mainly came to the country and although small groups of Israelis began to arrive, “they are also beginning to disappear.”
“Right now we are surviving,” said a representative of the artisans of the “Calle de las Brujas”, Oscar Bersatti.
Bersatti said that “tourism has dropped considerably” as a result of the coronavirus and considered that the situation will get worse for the sector given the new restrictions that will come into force in Bolivia for travelers from other countries.
Tour operators and artisans are primarily concerned with paying rent for the spaces occupied by their businesses and wages for their dependents.
The associations of travel agencies, tourist transport, guides and hotels issued a statement to declare themselves in “extreme crisis” and asked the national government for a relief and revival plan for the sector, to “counter” what is happening in the global context and local measures against COVID-19.
“It is estimated that due to the multiplier effect of the tourism sector in other sectors, the total losses in the country will be approximately 1,000 million dollars by 2020, as well as the estimated loss of 100,000 direct jobs,” warned the sector.
Tour operators expressed their support for measures to preserve “people’s lives and health,” but warned that the effect will be “devastating” for tourism, with declines in employment and income generated by that sector.
THE RESTRICTIONS IN BOLIVIA
In Bolivia, which registers twelve cases of coronavirus, since last Saturday, travel to and from Europe has been prohibited and since Tuesday, the entry of travelers from Spain, China, South Korea and Italy has been banned.
The interim president, Jeanine Áñez, announced on Tuesday new measures that will include the closing of borders from Thursday to foreigners, allowing only the entry of Bolivians and residents in the country, who must submit to the protocols established by the Ministry of Health and World Health Organization.