First the pandemic and, now, the war in Ukraine have turned the Venezuelan Isla de Margarita, a tropical jewel with white sand coasts and turquoise waters, into a coveted destination for tourists, especially those from Russia, against all odds.
And it is that this island has become the perfect destination for thousands of Russians who are looking for a sunny vacation, but face visa and flight restrictions as a result of the invasion ordered by President Vladimir Putin into Ukraine in February.
“Now there are some difficulties because Russia is now under sanctions and many tourist destinations that we know are now closed, but some are closed and some are open. A beautiful place is never empty. That is why we enjoy this direct flight and are happy to rest,” she told the voice of america the Russian Irina Kulikova, visiting Venezuela.
For his part, Luis Moreno, head of Tourist Guides on Isla Margarita, explained to the VOA the importance that the agreement reached in September 2021 with the Russian tourism sector has had for residents.
“The number of passengers arriving in Margarita has reactivated the economy, commerce, tourism, restaurants, and taxi drivers; Therefore, the Isla de Margarita, which depends on both fishing and tourism -in this case, Russian tourism- have generated jobs for many people”, he related.
But the visit of Russian tourists is not limited to Isla de Margarita. In Caracas, tourists are also taken to popular sectors through the so-called cable trainand then to the pantheon where the remains of former president Hugo Chávez rest, says the also tourist Dimitri Bobkov.
“Personally, I’m happy. I love the people, the food, the nature and the climate here. I think maybe in a past life I was Venezuelan. That’s not very likely, but that’s how I feel,” he told the VOA.
In the past two months, some 3,000 Russian tourists have taken advantage of a new direct flight between Moscow and Margarita Island. The route reopened on October 2 after a seven-month hiatus due to the war and was modified to avoid flying over sanctions-restricted airspace.
The importance of the agreement
Although the Russians visited different places in Venezuela during the pandemic, such as Caracas or the Los Roques archipelago, Margarita Island was the most popular destination.
Thanks -to a large extent- to the agreement, these tourists managed to revitalize the paradisiacal island, an enclave that in the past enjoyed great splendor, but that in recent years had been seriously affected by failures in electrical services and power outages. water due to the crisis.
Through the agreement approved by the governments of Moscow and Caracas in 2021, Russian passengers began to arrive on the island through direct charter flights, explained in may to voice of america Reinaldo Pulido, vice president of the Tourism Council of Venezuela.
“They managed to get some important Russian operators from Moscow and St. Petersburg to consider the possibility that passengers who had signed or agreed to a destination in the Caribbean and who had not received them yet, would consider starting to travel to Venezuela,” Pulido explained. “And the Russian passenger likes the nightlife, he likes the good life.”
[Con la colaboración de Júlia Riera, periodista de la VOA, desde Barcelona]
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