Environmental protection, gastronomy with ingredients from local producers, and the preservation of the traditions of indigenous peoples are some of the pillars of sustainable tourism in the region.
Tourism in Central America and the Dominican Republic is aligned with local economic development. The main pillars of the offer for visitors include the protection of each country’s environment, a cuisine that is cooked with ingredients grown by local producers and the preservation of the culture and traditions of indigenous peoples. As Carolina Briones, Secretary General of the Central American Tourism Promotion Agency (CATA), points out, “we want to promote tourism that directly benefits the people of our region. Tourism is a fundamental sector not only for governments or large companies, but also for small businesses or farmers, to give two examples.
For this reason, the countries of Central America and the Dominican Republic are concerned about promoting tourism that coexists in harmony with the environment. It is home to 12% of the world’s biodiversity, is the second most important bird watching area in the western hemisphere and is part of the second largest coral reef in the world. A unique tropical sanctuary, surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, which tourists can enjoy with the utmost respect for nature and is pampered to be inherited by future generations.
In terms of gastronomic tourism, the region offers visitors a rich fusion of indigenous, African and Spanish cuisine, which is based on corn, a native crop that is part of the food base of the pre-Hispanic peoples of Mesoamerica who inhabited the region. In addition to corn, other products include yucca, black and red beans, peanuts, rice, chili peppers, avocado, cacao, pineapple, coconut… all grown by local producers, whose tourism is an important source of income.
Archeology and ancestral heritage
Central America and the Dominican Republic are also home to various pre-Columbian lineages whose heritage transcends to the present day thanks to the zeal and care of the traditions and cultural expressions of their heirs, as well as the archaeological remains, which are preserved intact over time. Throughout the length and breadth, and in different geographical points of the Central American isthmus, the ethnic groups of the Lenca, Tolupanes, Maya Chortis, Payas, Tawahkas, Misquitos, Sumo, Rama, Ulwas, Marribio, Chorotega, Nagrandano, Nicarao, Sutiaba, Matagalpa, Chontal, Guatusos, Quitirrisí, Malekú, Bribri, Talamancas, Emberá, Nagate and the artistic Kuna.
Likewise, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras are home to nearly six million descendants of the ancient Mayan culture. In Central America, travelers can learn firsthand the route traced by this amazing culture, which, ahead of its time, left behind signs and vestiges that demonstrate its splendor.
In this line, Guatemala marvels with the archaeological sites and parks El Mirador-Río Azul, Uaxactun, Tikal, Yaxha-Nahum-Naranjo, Quirigua and Takalik Abaj. Belize fascinates with its extraordinary, and little known, millenary wealth consisting of more than 1,400 Mayan sites including Cerro Maya, Santa Rita, Altun Ha, Lamanai and Baton Creek. El Salvador captivates with the charm of the archaeological sites of San Andrés, Cara Sucia, Tazumal, Cihuatán, Joya de Cerén, Casa Blanca, and Santa Leticia; while stately and magical Honduras envelops with the imposing and indecipherable ruins of Copán, Rastrojón and El Puente, among others.
Local culture and traditions
In the Dominican Republic, the Taino heritage is still very present throughout the country. The Taino-Arawak were the first inhabitants of the country who settled before the arrival of Christopher Columbus and the Spanish. Today, the spirit of the Taino is still very much alive in the national idiosyncrasy. From the legacy of this pre-Columbian culture, which can be discovered in different museums of the country, such as the Museum of the Dominican Man in Santo Domingo or the Altos de Chavon Regional Archaeological Museum, to the gastronomy, such as the delicious cassava cassava.
The bucolic and stately colonial cities, founded along the royal road that interconnected the native towns, also preserve Central America’s cultural heritage. In Panama, Panama La Vieja, founded in 1519, the old town, the modern Panama City, Portobelo, the Anton Valley whose population is seated on an extinct crater and Chiriqui. In Nicaragua, León and ‘LaGran Sultana’, as the city of Granada is known, both founded in 1524.
Environment, gastronomy, culture and traditions are some of the pillars of tourism in Central America and the Dominican Republic, which, as it turns out, contribute to the region’s indigenous sustainable development.