Venezuela has got to be one of the most fascinating countries on the planet. Certainly it is one of the most diverse, offering almost everything for the tourist and tourism in every area.

This morning I saw this question posed on BBC News…

So why aren’t tourists flocking to Venezuela?

Well, I can answer that even before reading the article, I can sum it up in one word, Chavez.

As long as Chavez and his policies preside over Venezuela tourists will stay away in droves.

Venezuela bids to beat bad image to win over tourists

Venezuela’s natural riches should be a tourist draw

It has the longest Caribbean coastline of any country and the world’s tallest waterfall, not to mention snow-capped Andean mountains and Amazon rainforest. Tourist paradise? Not Venezuela.

Considering the country’s size and natural attractions, tourist numbers are low.

In 2009, Venezuela received just over 600,000 international visitors, according to World Bank figures, compared to more than two million in neighbouring Colombia.

The majority came from Europe or North America, but less than half were on holiday. Venezuela’s Institute for National Statistics shows many were visiting family, on business or studying.

Venezuela’s annual tourism fair gets under way on Thursday and this year the country has teamed up with the UN’s World Tourism Organisation to make a special push to improve visitor numbers.

We want to “boost tourism as a means of development and cultural interaction,” a government statement said.

Angel Falls: Dramatic experience for the adventurous

Currency controls to stop Venezuelans investing abroad mean the official rate of exchange is poor for foreigners arriving with US dollars.

A sandwich and a bottle of water in a cafe in Caracas cost around $25 at the official rate.

Read more

Venezuela simply is NOT tourist friendly.

“The government blames the international media for its inability to attract more visitors.”

Of course ‘the government,’ ergo Hugo Chavez blames the international media for giving Venezuela a bum rap. He is such an arrogant bastard, that he would never think that HE, and his policies, is the problem.

Venezuela has a reputation for violence and tourist kidnappings; but Rio de Janeiro has tourists being robbed and Colombia has much violence, but they don’t suffer in the same way that Venezuela has.

Why raises the question, why?

Simple, Rio de Janeiro may have drug dealers and Colombia may have FARC, but they don’t have Chavez.

It is true that Venezuela is probably the most beautiful and idyllic place that exists. But there has to be major changes in the tourist infrastructure before they will come. Simply holding a travel fair, changing slogans and saying ‘come’ will not work.

For a country like Venezuela to ‘boast’ 600,000 (remembering that only half that number are on holiday) tourists is nothing short of pathetic and a true reflection on what the world thinks of this paradise.