The world’s most isolated country has come another step closer to being wiped off the world map.
Already a destination few airlines will fly to due to political turmoil, violence and its crumbling economy, Venezuela has now been dealt a fresh blow, with travel companies refusing to sell tickets to any travellers who still want to visit.
Expedia and Orbitz have quietly stopped selling tickets for Venezuela, the Associated Press reports, making it now impossible to find Venezuelan cities in the drop-down list of booking options for flights and hotels on the sites.
An Expedia Group spokeswoman told AP its decision was in accordance with travel advice from foreign governments, including Australia, that warn travellers off Venezuela.
“Once governmental advice reaches a certain level of travel concern, we take action to close off destinations on our sites,” spokeswoman Sarah Gavin said.
“This ‘stop sell’ will remain in effect until the situation in Venezuela improves and travel advice changes.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs urges Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Venezuela due to serious crime, dangerous protests in major cities, terrorist groups and food and medical supply shortages.
The US State Department has put Venezuela on its “do not travel” list, following Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s decision to sever diplomatic relations with the US.
While the travel companies turn their back on Venezuela, its optimistic but financially crippled government has been confident that tourism — which tourism minister Marleny Contreras said was “the oil that never runs out” — would help it get back on its feet.
Last year, Mr Maduro revealed plans for a luxury revamp of the languishing, state-run Humboldt Hotel in Caracas, which he promises to be the “first seven-star hotel in Venezuela”, as the government talked up tourism opportunities.
Despite offering a wealth of natural beauty, including the world famous Angels Falls, Venezuela is the second-last ranked country in terms of tourist growth, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. The council said Venezuela has even less growth than warn-torn Syria and Libya.
And it’s little surprise, with only a few airlines continuing to fly passengers in and out of the country.
US airlines United and Delta, Germany’s Lufthansa, Argentine Airlines, Air Canada, Aeromexico, Alitalia and Colombian airline Avianca are among those that have suspended their services to the country due to concerns over violence and political uncertainty.
American Airlines has two daily flights between Caracas and Miami and is the last US carrier to fly there.
Spanish airline Iberia and Portugal’s TAP recently added stops in the Caribbean so their crews don’t have to spend the night in the country, which is regarded as one of the most dangerous in the world.
As well as concerns over the safety and security of passengers and crew, airlines have also been deterred from servicing Venezuela due to unpaid government contracts.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said Venezuela owes $5.35 billion to several international airlines, which it will struggle to repay.
“Venezuela is becoming disconnected,” IATA vice president Peter Cerda said in late 2017, as a flurry of airlines announced they were pulling up stumps on their Venezuelan routes.
“It’s practically disconnected from the rest of the world, above all by air, and we can’t see any solution in the short term.”
AP reports the few Venezuelan airlines still in operation are financially struggling, fly aged planes and have “spotty” safety records.
They may face more struggles with the US having put sanctions on Venezuela’s government-owned oil company, which will make it difficult to import fuel and petrol products.
More than 40 people have died in Venezuela following demonstrations that began last month calling on Mr Maduro to step down and pass control of the country onto Opposition Leader Juan Guaidó. Australia is among the growing list of countries that recognise Mr Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president.
Meanwhile Venezuelan people are being plunged further and further into economic chaos, with the wealthy fleeing to neighbouring countries and as far away as Spain.
In August, photographs taken by Reuters highlighted the reality of hyperinflation in Venezuela.
A 2.4kg chicken was pictured next to a huge stack of 14,600,000 bolivar notes at a street market in capital Caracas on August 16. With the current exchange rate, it’s worth just $3.04.
Another photo showed a single roll of toilet paper next to 2,600,000 bolivars, which is worth just 55 cents.