By Karina Vásquez.
When she had 18-years-old, Viviana Arismendi had a two-year-old son, another in her belly, and a husband working in the sea. She knew that a long way was awaiting her. So, her working spirit turned on, and she began to offer her empanadas to the visitors at the beach. With only one table, she started her business to increase her income and contribute to the tourism in the Margarita island, eastern Venezuela, where tourism is the main economical source of the state.
Helped by her mother, she took the risk, and the idea grew up in the Antolin del Campo town, a zone where tourism was prosperous back in the 80s’. The job allowed raised her eight children. “To got some money, I just waited that my husband came back from his fishing job, but I started with the empanadas. In one day, I used to sell more than 200.”
Watching and feel the loneliness on the beach is painful for her. “Now, the situation is different. Nobody comes to the island; the sales are not what they use to be. The tourists disappear, and I do not have earnings. But I still go out, just in case that someone comes and wants an empanada.” The sellers say that six years ago, you could see around 25 selling points on the beach. Now, you may only see just one or two.
But Viviana is clear. Not only the pandemic has affected the economy on the island. She is committed to keeping it alive, but other factors affecting the zone.
In December 2020, World Tourism Organization estimated a 30 years setback in worldwide tourism. They even calculated economic losses in two billion in the Gross World Product.
Viviana assures that ten years ago, tourism in Margarita island has gone into decline. The tourists have decreased in vacations, the season when they get the best incomes.
The situation of William Gómez is similar to Viviana. He is a surfer for 15 years, and since then, Playa Parguito became its home. Before, he served ten people a day interested to learn to surf, but today he is only going to see the waves once a week. “Few people come, but they do no sport. Some of them going to the beach, and then they leave. Tourism on the island has changed that even is scary to walk around the beach.”
Playa Parguito was one of the attractive places in Margarita that received tourists from Brazil and Argentina. Nowadays, the famous beach is so desolating that even the turtles come out at midnight to lay their eggs. Around five years ago, the rescue bodies must guard until the little turtles came out of the nest. Now it is not necessary.
An indisputable reality
Between 2000 and 2019, the island could receive three to four million visitors every year. According to the figures of the Chamber of Commerce, only 750 visited the island in December 2020.
In the Pearl of the Caribbean, as Margarita is known, the economic situation has unquestionably changed. The few visits registered for some years deny the possibility of receiving profits in daily sales. They are far away from the golden age of tourism in the region during the decade of the 80s and 90s when eight million citizens came to the island to buy, do business, and enjoy the natural beauties of the island.
José Yapur, the president of Fedecamaras in Nueva Esparta (the businessmen organization in Venezuela)
estimates that small and medium-sized companies in the tourism sector have registered disastrous seasons with 35% and 40% drop in their income because of the crisis that hit the economy, but they work with the hope of better days would come.
For his part, Teodoro Bellorín, president of the Chamber of Commerce, indicates that the little airport movement, for about five years, has been canceled with the imposition of a radical quarantine isolating more the inhabitants of the islands of Margarita and Coche.
Despite all the dark panorama, people on the island hope that the vacation seasons to come like the Carnival and the Holly Week could change, at least, a little. They ask for flexibilization during the seasons.
The fate of the island of Margarita is in the heart and hand of its people. Entrepreneurs as Viviana, and companies as hotels, continue believing and betting to sustain the place, and one day, return its seat of honor as the pearl of the Caribbean.