Bolivia: An Incredible Country Full of Authentic Charm

A South American country, Bolivia has been bestowed with pristine natural beauty. Located in western-central part of South America, Bolivia has immense tourism potential, mostly in the forms of historical and cultural heritage sites and stunning natural landscapes that make Bolivia an attractive tourist destination. Bolivia has seven UNESCO World Heritage sites that include Tiwanaku, a pre- Columbian archaeological site located in western Bolivia. The ruins of the city of Tiwanaku are the oldest in all America. The site was one of the cradles of human civilization. Other UNESCO world heritage sites in Bolivia are the city of Potosí, the Historic City of Sucre, the Jesuit Missions of Chiquitos, the Fort Samaipata and the Carnival of Oruro, Qhapaq Ñan (Andean Road System) and Noel Kempff Mercado National Park. Bolivia is a multiethnic and multilingual country officially known as the Plurinational State of Bolivia. The country had been under the different empires at the different period of time. Bolivia became Spanish colony in the 16th century. In an interview with TnH magazine, H.E. Mr. Sergio Darío Arispe Barrientos, Ambassador of the Plurinational State of Bolivia to India, talks about the amazing tourism potential of his country.

Q. How important is the tourism sector for the Bolivian economy?

It is up and growing. There have been some logistical development in the country in recent times that will help our tourism sector. We now have better highways, better accommodations and upscale tourism facilities to offer to tourists. At present most of the tourists visiting Bolivia are backpackers but that is not the kind of tourists we are targeting. We are targeting high-spending tourists, who can contribute significantly in our economy.

Q. How important is Indian market for tourism sector in Bolivia?

Indian market is a big tourism market, an important market for tourism in Bolivia. After Japan and China, India is the most important market in Asia. A large and increasing number of Indian people are travelling abroad. There is a segment of well-travelled Indians who want to travel more and explore something new, something incredible. People want to explore new destinations, new experiences. But as of now, it is hard to promote Bolivia in India because Indian travel industry is more focused on well-known popular destination like France, UK, US, Thailand, etc. At present very few Indians know about Bolivia. I think the challenge before Bolivian tourism to promote itself in India is that there is lack of awareness about Bolivia in India. People are completely unaware about Bolivia and its tourism potential. They know about every European cities, but not much about Bolivia. Bolivia is not at the top of their minds; this is the disadvantage that we have to face. This is a structural problem that has to do with our education that is more focused on Europe and the other parts of the world.

I think there is need to create awareness about Bolivia and its uniqueness in India. There are many good travel service providers in India. There is need of finding some specialized companies which know Bolivia and its tourism potential and can offer good information and guidance about the country while motivating Indians to travel to Bolivia. Once Indians start visiting Bolivia, they will have stunning experience. They will be pleasantly surprised to see our incredible natural beauty, splendid heritage sites and our hospitality.

Q. Tell us about the tourism potential of Bolivia.

Bolivia offers some atypical experiences to travelers. You don’t need to visit Bolivia to see great museums and high-rise buildings. You come to Bolivia for something different. I think what makes Bolivia a unique destination is that it offers an opportunity for genuinely extraordinary holiday experience that few other countries offer. Bolivia is a land of incredible natural beauty. You will find so many beautiful natural sites in Bolivia. We have majestic Salar de Uyuni, which is one of the flattest places in the world, covering 4,000- square-mile salt flats. These salt flats are the most stunning after rains when rain-water atop the tiled salt turns into a mirror of the sky reflecting beautiful stars and clouds. The Salar de Uyuni is a unparalleled destination in the world. Bolivia offer majestic experience to those well-travelled visitors who have already travelled to many famous destinations like Europe, Africa and Asia. And those who are looking for pristine natural beauty and genuine culture experience, they must visit Bolivia. I bet when you visit Bolivia, get your selfie and place it on the Facebook page, your friends will ask, wow, where is that! Such is the pristine and stunning beauty of Bolivia!

Like India we have a profound legacy of history and culture. We are a country of many ethnic groups, each having its own distinct culture. We have some great anthropological and archeological sites recognized by the UNESCO. Historians have acknowledged our profound archeological legacy. We have the famous archaeological site of Tiwanaku, the center of the ancient Tiwanaku state.

Our Tarija region is well-recognized for its wine made from grapes grown at an altitude of 6,000 feet. You can visit the place to get authentic taste of wine. Then we have Lake Titicaca, which is a very large and deep lake located in the Andes. This is the largest lake in South America and highest navigable lake in the world. The large portion of our country is based in the Amazon basin, which is another beautiful attraction. Tourists can enjoy boat service in the Amazon river. We offer many amazing peculiarities to those who want to experience something new and stunning. You will never find such peculiarities anywhere in the world.

We have the Gran Chaco in Santa Cruz in the southeastern part of Bolivia. Gran Chaco is an extensive plain area spreading beyond Bolivia. The largest virgin dry forest on Earth, Gran Chaco is the hottest region of Bolivia, almost uninhabitable due to the lack of water. The area is home to over 1000 species of flora.

Q. How is air connectivity between India and Bolivia?

Connectivity is not a problem. From India you can fly to Bolivia via Dubai or Doha. You can also visit Bolivia via Madrid. Bolivian airlines operate between Madrid and Bolivia. It is worth your time and money to visit Bolivia. You will feel a never-before kind of experience in Bolivia.

Q. What are the key source markets for tourism in Bolivia?

Spain, France, Germany and Japan are the top four source markets of tourism for our country. China is also growing as it is the largest outbound travel market in the world. I am hopeful that India will also emerge as a key tourism market for us considering its size of population and economic growth. Once Indians get a taste of our unique nature and culture, they will start visiting Bolivia in a large number.

Q. What kind of similarities do you see between Indian and Bolivian cultures?

I think India and Bolivia are among the few countries in the world which have genuine cultures. Cities across the world are almost similar, but it is the spiritual and cultural aspects that distinguish India from the rest of world. It is its spirituality and multiplicity of people and culture that have attracted people from across the world from ancient times. India still has a genuine culture. The same is true for Bolivia, which also has very ancient culture, immense diversity and amazing natural beauty, just like India. You must visit Bolivia to see for themselves to seek unimaginable pleasure. You should not visit Bolivia just to see great museums and high skyscrapers. That you can see almost everywhere. You should visit Bolivia for its genuineness, incredibleness and pristine beauty; something you cannot find anywhere.

Q. What do you think about India?

I think India is the future of the world. I see here a force of nature visible everywhere and people working day and night. India no longer is seen as backward country. I came here five years ago, and again now as ambassador. I have very positive experience of this incredible country. People are warm and welcoming. Your culture is genuine. I like Indian foods.

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