Central America Drives a New Era for Regional Tourism Development
Central America is located in the heart of the American continent, with a territorial extension of 570,948 km2. It connects North America with South America. In addition, it is a natural bridge embraced by the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean.
Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and the Dominican Republic are committed to regional tourism integration as a means to substantially contribute to the development of Central America. In 2018, the region received 17.7 million tourists, exhibiting a growth of 2.7% over the previous year, which provides an opportunity to make a leap in the management quality of the tourist offer of the countries.
The goal is to move the region towards the its consolidation as an exceptional multi-destination. Central America has 47 seaports and 29 airports, ensuring connectivity between countries to guarantee the flow of cargo and passengers visiting the region. That is why Central American countries work on the modernization of their infrastructure to facilitate and guarantee the best experience for travelers.
Central American infrastructure projects are increasingly bigger and more visible when competing for global investments. This is because, with new metro lines, airports, seaports, roads, trains, logistics facilities, energy generation projects, water treatment plants, among others, the different nations intend to increase the competitiveness of the region.
In the case of Belize, Alaia, a hotel in the Marriot hotel collection, is expected to open in Ambergris Cay in 2020. In addition, in 2021, the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Caye Chapel is expected to debut in the Central American country.
For its part, Guatemala is committed to the connection with Flores, Petén, one of the country's iconic areas for the attraction of tourists interested in archeology and ancestral culture. Avianca airline has two daily direct flights from Guatemala City to Flores airport, operated with an ATR72 600 aircraft with the capacity for 68 passengers and priced at very affordable rates, both for domestic and foreign tourists.
As for El Salvador, in 2019 it declared 21 kilometers of coastline as a Tourist Zone of National Interest, a new step to become one of the main tourism surfing hotspots in the Central American region. Through this declaration made in the context of Surf City, the initiative will further improve the tourist corridor, giving a boost to the development of infrastructure and tourism.
In addition, the smallest country in the region plans the implementation of more than four megaprojects aimed at mobility and transport of people/goods, including a train and a new airport, which seek to give a great boost to the economic and social development of El Salvador.
In November 2019, a new Air Europa travel frequency was opened in Honduras, linking the Adolfo Suarez Madrid Barajas Airport with the Ramón Villeda Morales Airport. Its schedule guarantees a perfect and comfortable connection with the rest of its destinations and symbolizes the interest of the airline to consolidate and grow in Central America.
Also, in December of the same year, the WestJet airline arrived in Roatan with more than 130 tourists from Canada, thus inaugurating a direct route that will boost tourism in this paradisiacal island of the Honduran Caribbean.
Meanwhile, Nicaragua continues to work on 20 relevant projects under the Tourism Industry Incentives Act of the Central American country, including hotels, restaurants, sports centers, parks and road improvement.
Proof of this is that a new hotel chain, DoubleTree, will begin operations in Nicaragua in 2020. This operation is synonymous with facilities and options for doing business in Managua, the capital that in recent years has shown a growth in terms of its public and private infrastructure.
Likewise, the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua is being promoted as an area of high tourism development for investments in hotels, restaurants, and beach destinations. The new road that connects Managua with Bluefields is currently being constructed, making progress for local commerce and tourism.
For its part, Costa Rica continues to make progress in enabling new flights and air connections. In 2019, Iberia signed with the Costa Rican Tourism Institute a collaboration agreement for the promotion of this nation in Europe, inaugurating the first flight of the new Airbus A350, the most advanced aircraft on the market on the San José-Madrid route. This effort shows Costa Rica's clear commitment to sustainability, since this aircraft represents 25% less in CO2 emissions.
The Central American country continues to position its Convention Center, which hosted more than 15 international events, with which Costa Rica advances in its goal of becoming a reference MICE destination in Latin America for three specific characteristics: excellence in service, operational efficiency, and sustainability.
With 89 direct destinations around the world, Panama has established itself as the country with the highest air connectivity in Latin America. In addition, it is currently streamlining studies for the construction of the fourth bridge over the Panama Canal.
Last but not least, the Dominican Republic remains the gateway between Central America and Europe. The Caribbean country has been chosen by airlines to inaugurate new flights to Madrid, Brussels, Italy, and other European destinations. During 2018, the Tourism Development Council (CONFOTUR) approved sixty-five (65) tourism projects, with an estimated investment of USD3,057 million.