Page last updated at 22:24 GMT, Wednesday, 12 August 2009 23:24 UK

Party continues despite recession

Punte del Este marina

Veronica Psetizki
BBC Mundo, Uruguay

For many people around the globe, the recession has brought unavoidable change to their lives.

Some have lost jobs, many have had to cut back or alter their spending.

But not everybody is affected, especially in the resort of Punta del Este in Uruguay, the resort of choice for the rich and famous from around the world.

Here the sun still shines, crisis or no crisis.

According to business people, tour operators and the inhabitants themselves, figures show that well-heeled tourists have taken and will continue to take their holidays there, spending and investing in a big way.

Recession, what recession?

Although it is mainly Argentine tourists who choose to spend their summer holidays in this Atlantic resort, recently more Europeans and Americans have been coming, mainly at the recommendation of friends.

These are well-travelled people, very well off, people who are not really affected by the crisis
Party organiser Soledad Parodi

Ignacio Berenbau is a Uruguayan living in Washington and member of an exclusive social network, A Small World, or ASW.

The network, he told the BBC, "has helped put Punta del Este on the map."

Unlike other social networks such as Facebook, you can only join by invitation from another member.

ASW says on its homepage that it is aimed at an international community "culturally influential and connected by three degrees of separation".

Argentine Soledad Parodi works in public relations and lives in Punta del Este. She organises parties for ASW members.

"These are well-travelled people, very well off, people who are not really affected by the crisis."

"Last season many had just lost their jobs. But many who contact me are young people who work in banks, in finance in general. They are the sort who plan their holidays well in advance, so they came anyway."

Shakira is among the celebrities buying properties in the region

Invitation only

It is not what you know, but who you know.

Ms Parodi has a network of 3,000 people who have at one time or another been in touch with her to find out about the resort.

She says the members of the network trust each other, help each other out and even rent or lend houses amongst themselves.

Punta del Este holds exclusive invitation-only parties every summer.

"It's actually quite difficult for people here for the first time," she says.

"Nobody invites them because nobody knows them. They are important people with high-powered jobs in Europe. But here if you are not part of the group then you are left out."

"ASW has made it possible for these people to join in and be allowed into these events," she says.

Every foreigner who comes here falls in love with the place and wants to stay
Estate agent Juan Andres Marquine

She says the rich and famous who choose to spend a few days in Punta del Este, are even buying properties in and around the resort.

Colombian singer Shakira has been going there for several years and has bought an estate in José Ignacio, a smaller resort some 40km from Punta del Este which is becoming more and more popular with the international jet set.

"The actor Adrian Brody has friends here," Ms Parodi says, "We get European models, American TV actors, as well as singers who offer to do concerts while here to relax, like Julio Iglesias, Luis Miguel or Gloria Estefan."

Property investments

Every year 150,000 people "invade" Punta del Este during the summer months, bringing life to a seaside resort where there are only 8,000 permanent residents.

The BBC is Taking the Pulse of the Global Economy, looking at a range of subjects this summer
Consumer Behaviour: How lifestyles have changed over the year
Food prices remain a concern particularly in many developing economies
Energy costs: Highly volatile prices have been a major issue in the past year
Migrant workers their plight as the global recession takes hold in many economies
Housing markets have turned from boom to bust in many countries

"The sector which has flourished recently is the purchase of a second home by foreigners, mainly Europeans and Americans," says regional tourism director Horacio Diaz.

"The buying and selling of houses plummeted when the crisis hit the US and Europe, but now things are picking up," says estate agent Juan Andres Marquine.

"I have Italian, American and Spanish clients who choose Punta del Este for its beauty, they are looking for peace and security.

"Every foreigner who comes here falls in love with the place and wants to stay. They are looking for a nice property with a sea view," he adds.

If you are interested, prices start at US$100,000, rising to $1 million.

"In 2007 and 2008, a lot of people bought properties by the ocean, something that in Europe is hardly feasible."

There may be a recession elsewhere, but for the well-heeled, life in Punta del Este does not seem to have changed.

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