EFEBy Santiago Carbone Montevideo

Protected areas, an old cold storage plant that fed soldiers during the world wars, thermal baths and a town founded by Russian immigrants are all to be found within Uruguay's "Corredor de los Pajaros Pintados" (Corridor of the Painted Birds), a region that aspires to win the World Travel Market Latinoamerica's Responsible Tourism award.

Located far from the hustle and bustle of the country's southeastern beaches and ocean waters, this corridor is a zone in which organizations from five Uruguayan provinces along the Uruguay River are working assiduously to get recognized in tourism circles.

On April 29, the World Travel Market Latinoamerica will select the winner of its Responsible Tourism award from among 13 finalists, including destinations in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Uruguay.

"The World Travel Market is the Latin American travel and tourism industry's main international event," Miguel Garcia - who has worked for a number of years on matters involving the Painted Birds zone that spans the provinces of Artigas, Rio Negro, Salto, Paysandu and Soriano, all in western Uruguay - told EFE.

He is visibly happy that this Uruguayan destination may win the coveted prize, saying that doing so would highlight the region's noteworthy tourist offerings, an achievement that "was within ... the strategic development parameters" of the Painted Birds zone.

He emphasized that there are three protected areas within the region: the Rincon de Franquia, the Montes del Queguay and the Esteros de Farrapos National Park.

On a three-and-a-half hour tour, visitors can see all sorts of birds, including storks and herons, as well as horses that graze nearby.

There are also kingfishers plunging into the water to hunt for bluegill, taking their catch to nearby trees to eat.

"Entering a protected area obligates us to behave in a different way from perhaps more urban conduct," Garcia said, emphasizing that this kind of tourism "seeks to stimulate the entrepreneur to incorporate responsibility into his sustainable tourism activities."

The Anglo Cold Storage Plant is another feature of the region, where more than 5,000 head of cattle were processed each week to feed British and German troops in both World Wars One and Two.

Also, the towns of San Javier, founded by Russian immigrants, and Villa Soriano, the oldest European settlement in Uruguay are to be found in the Painted Birds region.

In 2019, a total of 610,633 foreign tourists came to the zone along with another 603,299 Uruguayans, although this was before the coronavirus pandemic virtually paralyzed the tourism sector.

Over the past year or more, local tourism operators have identified the key resources in the zone and worked out plans to get a fresh start as pandemic restrictions ease, Garcia said.

Among the tourism offerings available in the "painted birds" sector are nautical adventures along the Uruguay River and associated streams, sports fishing, traditional celebrations and relaxing thermal baths, all of them augmented by the delicious regional cuisine including dozens of local products such as freshwater fish, island honey, citrus fruits and wines.

EFE