With the Dominican Republic as the flagship, Central American countries are optimistic about the recovery of tourism to level their economies.
The tourism sector, of great importance in Central America and Panama, one of the hardest hit during the Covid-David Collado-19 pandemic, is struggling to recover through various mechanisms to boost the industry.
Due to its importance for the economies of the member countries of the Central American Integrated System, the recovery of their economies depends heavily on how tourism recovers.
This was stated by the ministers of tourism of Central America, Panama and the Dominican Republic, when addressing the challenges of tourism recovery during the pandemic in the framework of the meetings of the Central American Tourism Council (CCT) and the Central American Tourism Promotion Agency (CATA), in which the Dominican Republic assumed the Pro Tempore Presidency of the Central American Tourism Council (CCT) and CATA.
Anayansy Carolina Rodríguez Castillo, Director General of the Guatemalan Tourism Institute (Inguat), indicated that the Covid-19 pandemic affected Guatemala’s tourism industry “very much”, taking into account that the income generated by tourism represents 10% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
He said that before the pandemic they received approximately 2.5 million tourists and last year they closed with only 600 thousand foreign visitors.
She indicated that they have implemented several strategies to accelerate the recovery of tourism and that by next year they will reach 1,800,000 visitors.
Enthusiastic, she revealed that in August they will inaugurate a direct flight between Guatemala and Santo Domingo through the airline Arajet.
Williams Rodríguez Alvarado, director of the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) expressed that Costa Rica has already recovered 80% of the tourist visits it registered before the Covid-19 pandemic.
He indicated that Costa Rica was decreasing the requirements for the entry of visitors as it advanced in the process of the pandemic.
“We learned that Covid-19 evolved in its process which allowed us to have a scientific basis for making the right decisions,” he said.
Rodriguez said they are confident that both jobs and tourism can recover matching the 2019 figures by 2023.
For the outgoing president of the Central American Tourism Council, Iván Eskildsen, 2022 for Panama is going to make an important difference in terms of its reactivation.
In Panama in 2020 and 2021 we were with approximately 70% less tourists compared to 2019. This year with more than 85% of the population vaccinated we see another perspective, the numbers present very interesting data with respect to previous months and that is something very positive, specifically Panama expects to end the year with a 75% recovery versus 2019, he indicated.
He expressed that Panama for the first time in history is treating tourism as a State policy, where a Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism (PMTS) has been approved and now we are working on it.
In Nicaragua, the tourism sector has not yet achieved the figures prior to the pandemic but experienced a significant movement of visitors during the year-end vacations, said the Nicaraguan Minister of Tourism (Intur), Anasha Campbell.
“I believe that we achieved the objective that Nicaraguans also enjoy tourism, because before the pandemic they saw tourism as something that tourists of other nationalities do when they arrive in the country, but I believe that the pandemic also allowed us to strengthen and consolidate domestic tourism. Nicaraguans today travel throughout the national territory to enjoy the natural and cultural beauties that Nicaragua has to offer”, he added.
He said that Nicaragua is one of the countries in the region with the highest index of vaccinated population.
“In terms of recovery we have not reached where we want to reach, but we are heading towards the bush with around 40% while in hotel occupancy at 50%,” he noted.
For Nicaragua, Covid-19 provided an opportunity to rethink tourism, “to reinvent ourselves, to think of a more sustainable, responsible, inclusive and accessible tourism for all and to see the balance that should always exist between the international tourist who plays an important role but also the local population, for whom tourism is a human right in terms of healthy recreation, leisure, enjoyment of art and culture”.
Pro Tempore Presidency
The Dominican Republic, the number one country in the world in tourism recovery, according to the World Tourism Organization, assumed this Wednesday the Pro Tempore Presidency of the Central American Tourism Council (CCT), in order to continue advancing in the strengthening of the regional guidelines established in this organization and to achieve greater development of the tourism industry, which has a great impact on the economies of the member countries of the Central American Integration System (SICA).
Minister David Collado stressed the importance of working together for the development of tourism, which has become the lifeline of the economies. “The time has come to make the most of the tourism potential that Central America, Panama and the Dominican Republic have,” said the minister.
Collado replaces his Panamanian counterpart, Iván Eskildsen, who gave a report of achievements during his tenure and will remain in office for six months.
He pointed out that SICA member countries represent more than 60 million people, in a large economy of US$364 billion, and export more than US$60 billion outside the region, or US$1,000 per capita.
“We have 18 World Heritage Sites and almost 40 % of our forested area. We have everything the new tourist is looking for: culture, sustainability, diversity and good weather,” said Minister Collado.
This is the third time that the Dominican Republic assumes the pro tempore presidency of the CST, at a time when the country was recognized by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).