Interview with Eduardo Sanguinetti

Minister of Tourism of Uruguay

Eduardo Sanguinetti

Minister of Tourism of Uruguay

Dear Minister, what motivated you to accept the position of Minister of Tourism and what are your main objectives in this role?

My activity in the Ministry began with the entry of Viera, and where I had links with all areas of the Ministry because we were modifying some issues of processes and procedures for the new administrative strategy. Then, the Minister appointed me as the interlocutor responsible for the tourism program, which gave me the opportunity to get to know more about the interior, the people of the different associations and chambers. The objectives are to maintain the work that was being done and to finish the stage with a recovery of the sector and good results.

Given your professional background, how do you plan to apply your previous experience to promote tourism in Uruguay?

The experience we have gained during all these months at the head of the portfolio tells us that there are many offers to continue promoting, we have to work together with the operators to improve services, promotions, products, facilities, connectivity with Uruguay as well, because without connectivity tourists do not arrive, so we have to keep moving forward and improving.

There are some activity groups that we have not yet exploited and in the world they work very well. Then there is the issue of the relationship with international institutions, we need to continue marking a strong presence, as we have done the last two, three years, and that is why Uruguay is respected and is in a privileged position in terms of tourism.

What are the main axes of your work plan for the development of tourism in Uruguay?

The work plan continues to be the same as the one that Viera set three years ago, promotion, joint work between public (Ministry and Municipalities with their tourism departments) and private (Chambers, Associations, Operators) to professionalize services, offer new products, work on training, continue to show new tourism products throughout the country.

We are also going to continue working on deseasonalization and decentralization with the main objective that all tourists can choose the offers that Uruguay has in the 19 departments at any time of the year and that operators can offer promotions and good services in any season.

What measures do you have planned to ensure that tourism development benefits all the regions of Uruguay, especially the less visited ones?

The Ministry is permanently seeking tourism development and above all that the entire population can have access to days of rest and sightseeing, that is why the Tourism for All program was implemented, with which through different benefits and bonuses you can access tours and accommodations paying only 50 percent or in other cases a minimum percentage. It is also important for operators to join the proposals, which is also a way of promoting themselves and making themselves known.

How do you plan to use technology and innovation to improve the tourist experience in Uruguay?

Technology and innovation have somehow already been inserted in the sector in various ways, either for accommodation reservations, to learn about tours, tourist offers, today what all operators together with the support of the Ministry of Tourism must do is to facilitate access to tourists so that they take the best experience, knowing that in this way not only they will want to return but they will replicate their visit generating new tourists interested in traveling.

Are there plans to develop applications or digital platforms to facilitate tourism?

The Ministry has no plans to develop applications or digital platforms in particular, what it did present a year ago with the aim of advancing innovation and immediacy in terms of numbers is the Smart Tourism Observatory, a dynamic data visualization platform of the main indicators of tourism in Uruguay, from multiple sources of information.

How do you plan to highlight Uruguay's various tourist attractions, including culture, gastronomy, nature and sports?

Uruguay's attractions are promoted all year round through the promotions carried out both in the country and abroad, mainly in Argentina and Brazil, a market that was targeted during this government administration and which began in the area of Rio Grande do Sur and this year we are going to extend it to Rio de Janeiro. On the other hand, there are also the fairs in which the country participates in several parts of the world, such as the United States, Europe, Central America and the region, logically.

Are there plans to establish agreements or joint projects with other countries to strengthen the tourism sector?

"Visit South America, One Place Several Worlds" is an initiative of the MERCOSUR Ministries of Tourism, developed on the main elements that unite our destinations: the jungle, the mountains, the coast and the sun, the water and the people. It seeks to show South America as a continent of opportunities to discover and encounter its nature, gastronomy and hospitality.

At the same time, the MERCOSUR Ministries of Tourism are carrying out "The Natural Route of the South", a regional strategy that seeks to develop and promote nature tourism. To this end, they have prioritized and identified seven territorial corridors: the Puna or Altiplano Route in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile; the Yungas Route in Argentina and Bolivia; the Chaco-Paranaense Rainforest Route in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia; the Great Rivers Route in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil; the High Andes Route, the Patagonia Route in Argentina and Chile; and the Oceanic Route in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay.

This promotional effort between countries aims to unify promotion in third markets and where our South American continent represents opportunities to receive new international tourists by organizing combined tourist routes between these countries in the medium term.

What do you consider to be the main challenges for tourism in Uruguay in the current context?

The most important challenges not only for Uruguay but also for countries worldwide in the field of tourism are professionalization, the development of the activity, offering new proposals, new attractions to tourists so that they are satisfied and choose to come back to visit other areas or proposals.

For years there has been talk of shopping tourism in the country, but no significant progress has been made. How do you plan to promote shopping tourism in Uruguay, considering both regional visitors and those from further away?

In my opinion, shopping tourism exists and in several parts of the country, when one sees the numbers that tax free companies manage, one can see that many tourists who travel to our country also take a few hours to shop. Undoubtedly, in some places, such as Rivera, shopping tourism is one of the main sources of movement and hotel occupancy at various times of the year.

Are there plans to develop or promote specific shopping areas that can attract international tourists, especially outside the high season?

As I mentioned before, shopping tourism should be all over the country and should not have specific zones, however we know of the interest of businessmen to set up in certain points of the country where to deepen the so-called shopping tourism.

In a survey conducted last November 2023 among the country's tourism professionals, the importance of religious tourism was highlighted, do you see potential to develop this type of tourism in Uruguay?

Uruguay has been working for several years to enter the religious tourism circuit at regional and international level. In fact, after several years we hosted the International Congress on Religious and Sustainable Tourism.

It is a non-seasonal tourism, with a medium-high purchasing power, which involves many localities. It is a tourism closely linked to heritage tourism. It is necessary to remove the exclusive association with Catholicism since it encompasses much more. Religious tourism moves 300 million people per year, according to figures of the World Tourism Organization, hence the relevance for the country to deepen in the subject.

Uruguay is known for its excellent meat and wines, how do you plan to leverage and promote gastronomic tourism as a key pillar of Uruguayan tourism, and are you considering the creation of gastronomic routes or international culinary events as part of your strategy to attract lovers of good food and drink?

There is an increasing interest on the part of tourists to experience and learn about the gastronomic culture of the destinations, and there are many establishments in Uruguay that offer the possibility of having the experience of participating in the production.

The Ministry of Tourism has been working for several years on the gastronomic product and on a calendar of gastronomic events, encouraging the attraction of the market segment that seeks this modality. Current trends point to the tourist obtaining a total experience, ranging from being a spectator visualizing the production process of each product (beers, wines, oils, cheeses, etc.) or participating in a part of the manufacturing process.

Gastronomy is much more than cooking, it promotes cultural heritage, tradition and the sense of community of each place, bringing customs and traditions closer.

This year, for example, Montevideo will host the International Grill World Championship in September with the participation of several foreign countries, this also puts us in the spotlight at the gastronomic level.

With a growing global interest in wellness and health, how does Uruguay plan to attract tourists interested in health tourism, including spas, wellness retreats and medical treatments?

Our country hosted the international thermal, health and wellness tourism fair, called Termatalia. This fact not only positioned Uruguay in the world's spotlight, but also accelerated the development of a global trend: to promote health and wellness tourism.

In Uruguay there is a destination that has already implemented for some years attractions linked to personal care, the hot springs of Salto and Paysandú; and at this moment, it is in a very advanced stage for the signing of an agreement between the University of the Republic and the Complutense University of Madrid in which subjects will be established that will count for the necessary credits at the time of graduation.

The fair was an opportunity of qualification for all our professionals who are dedicated to the well-being, to the physical, sanitary and sports part.

But not only the thermal coast works in this product, the east of the country has for some years companies linked to offer services of well-being and medical treatments that generate interest of foreign tourists in coming and knowing our country.

In the long term, how do you imagine the impact of your administration on Uruguayan tourism?

We have been working for two and a half years in this administration, and we understand that it has been outstanding in terms of its results and in terms of the recovery of the sector after two years of pandemic as we had worldwide.

We will continue to follow the established path in order to consolidate this growth and the improvement of the sector as a whole.

What legacy would you like to leave as Minister of Tourism?

We have already been working on the improvement of internal processes, seeking to make the different procedures more efficient. We have also achieved the functional restructuring within the agency, adapting it to the real needs.

In this in-depth interview, the Minister of Tourism of Uruguay has shared his vision and strategies to promote and develop tourism in the country. Since his arrival, he has focused his efforts on tourism promotion, public-private sector collaboration, and the incorporation of technological innovation to enhance the visitor experience. Through significant programs such as "Tourism for All" and participation in regional initiatives, it seeks not only to recover but to expand Uruguay's tourism sector. 

He highlights the diversification of Uruguay's tourism offer, including shopping, religious, gastronomic and health tourism, adjusting to global trends and aiming at sustainable and inclusive development. 

We thank the Minister for his dedication and for offering a vision that promises to position Uruguay as a world-class tourism destination, reflecting his commitment to a legacy of growth and continuous improvement in the sector.

The authors are responsible for the choice and presentation of the facts contained in this document and for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of Tourism and Society Think Tank and do not commit the Organization, and should not be attributed to TSTT or its members.

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