From subtropical forests to Jesuit ruins, and colonial towns to the Chaco’s wild plains — Paraguay’s richness went unobserved until very recently
B R I E F I N G
By Jorge Marengo Camacho
In 2015 Paraguay experienced more growth in international visitors than any other country in the world. Paraguay has rapidly embraced the tourism sector, which accounts for 10% of global GDP and employs one out of every 11 people on the planet.
For nature-loving tourists, the Paraguayan outdoors has a lot to offer: rivers that are imposing in both size and strength, majestic waterfalls that shake the soil beneath, mountains dotting the shore, and natural tunnels formed by trees.
Paraguay proudly owns the greatest system of wetlands in the world, shared with Brazil and Bolivia, and it stretches from the Campo María salt lagoons in the Chaco region to the great Pantanal in Fuerte Olimpo. Another natural beauty on its soil are the dunes of San Cosme and San Damian, located in the centre of Lake Yaciretá, Ñande retã yvy sy (which means “our mother Earth” in Guarani).
In addition to the natural attractions, cities such as Asunción, whose old-style edifices reflect its colonial past, or Cuidad del Este, a cosmopolitan city and commercial capital, offer all modern conveniences both in terms of lodging and cuisine. When visiting one of these cities, going to a steakhouse for dinner is a must. The top-quality cuts of meat are highly prized in many parts of the world.
It is by drawing on these strengths that Paraguay wants to tap into the tourism market. The number of international visitors almost doubled to 1.2 million in 2015 in comparison to the previous year, according to UNWTO figures. Despite the number of visitors it has, it is still behind its neighbouring countries.
This growth amounted to 2.8 million same-day visitors (those who visited the country but didn’t spend the night there) and this group made an impact of US$467 million on the Paraguayan economy, representing 62% growth over the previous year. That is on top of the US$100 million generated from domestic tourism.
The growth prospects in this sector have made it a favoured strategy for development in the region, especially at a time when many countries have seen their income decrease as a result of falling oil prices. In 2014, for example, there were 1.3 million tourists creating an economic impact of US$1.5 trillion across the world. Of that, US$26 billion went to South America. In addition, the continent as a whole saw 8% growth in relation to 2013, making it the region with the highest growth rate globally.
In the case of Paraguay, this growth seems to have come through diverse strategies, such as the creation of the Touristic Observatory of Paraguay, and the agreement for the Development of Regional Tourism Plans. These are tools that are being proposed by government officials in order to offer more information and certainty to possible investors regarding how and where to best invest in Paraguay within this burgeoning sector.
Another strategy focuses on transportation, both by land and by air. In October 2015, a South American inter-governmental meeting on air connectivity and multi-destination routes was held in Asunción. It was presided over by UNWTO along with the IDB, which is also seeking to create a South American strategy in this area.
If you go to Paraguay, explore all its dimensions and open your arms to embrace a new adventure.
3-World Tourism Organization: www.cf.cdn.unwto.org/sites/all/files/pdf/unwto_highlights16_en_hr.pdf