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Venezuela wants tourism to account for 9 pct. of GDP

Caracas, Dec 1 (EFE).- President Nicolas Maduro’s administration wants tourism to account for 9 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), or more than double the current level of 4 percent, by 2019, Tourism Minister Andres Izarra said.

Izarra made the announcement during the closing ceremony of the 2014 Venezuelan International Tourism Fair, or Fitven, which the government hosts each year in a different city.

This year’s Fitven generated potential business deals worth between $317 million and $476 million, Izarra and Barinas state Gov. Adan Chavez said.

The four-day fair, which ended on Sunday night, was held in Barinas and drew nearly 117,500 visitors.

Some 100,000 people attended the fair’s music festival, which ended in the early hours of Monday, the official AVN news agency reported.

Tourism accounted for about 3 percent of Venezuela’s GDP in 2012, Izarra said earlier this year.

Some 700,000 tourists, mostly from neighboring Colombia and Brazil, visited Venezuela in 2012.

“Nearly 70,000 tourists” from Brazil visited Venezuela in 2013 and a similar number are expected this year, Brazilian Ambassador to Venezuela Ruy Pereira said during Fitven.

The Venezuelan government wants to expand the tourism industry to generate hard currency and reduce the country’s dependence on oil exports.