The Nicaragua Tourist Board recently scooped an award for sustainability. Abigail Healy discovers its carefully-considered plans for tourism growth
“Nicaraguaness” was a new one to me, but it was the endearing term that Ricardo Carioni, deputy head of diplomatic mission of Nicaragua in the UK, who was representing the Nicaragua Tourist Board at the Experience Latin America (ELA) event in London last month, used to describe the Central American country’s essence.
With the tourist board having just scooped the Lata Achievement Award for Sustainable & Responsible Tourism at ELA, Carioni said: “Tourism growing slowly means that we have preserved the ‘Nicaraguaness’ – our people are our biggest USP.”
Lata (the Latin American Travel Association) noted while Nicaragua is currently enjoying a 9.6% growth rate in foreign tourism, it has simultaneously grown its renewable energy use from 25% to 53% since 2007 and is projected to reach 90% by 2020.
Ana Carolina Garcia, director of promotion and marketing at the tourist board, also explained that a public-private initiative, the National Tourism Strategy, has been developed to ensure “good practices of sustainability with all the sectors of the tourist industry”.
And it’s an industry with widely ranging draws for visitors. Garcia added that beyond the welcoming locals, Nicaragua also contains 7% of the world’s biodiversity.
“In one short trip, visitors will be wowed by this land of lakes and volcanoes, colonial cities, lush tropical rainforests and temperate highlands, idyllic beaches, isolated island paradises and much more,” she enthused, adding that activities on offer include volcano boarding, hiking, scuba diving, and even witnessing El Gueguense – traditional dance story-telling. Yet this natural and cultural heritage doesn’t mean that infrastructure and other developments aren’t on the cards.
“There will be new hotels and resorts such as Nekupe resort, Elements Hotel, Mukul Golf and Spa Resort and Hyatt; a new highway connecting the whole southern half of the country’s Pacific Coast from Managua to the Costa Rican border; a new cruise port in San Juan del Sur; and a new harbour at San Jorge, connecting tourists more easily to Ometepe Island,” Garcia said.
She added that Nicaragua is developing its own national airline, with plans for flights from Managua to San Jose, Miami, Havana, Miami and Guatemala City; the international airport is due to be significantly extended and there is a national project worth $44million to update tourist attractions across the country.
As Lata recognised last month, it is a country aware of the value of tourism yet it knows that preserving its culture, environment and, of course, “Nicaraguaness” is essential in continuing to offer those tourists a reason to visit while also realising the government’s aim of improving the quality of life of its people. In short, an award well deserved.