Nicaragua’s Tourism Industry Remains Crippled by Insecurity

According to the National Tourism Board’s (CANATUR) forecasts.

A total of 83% of tourism companies have reduced their operations by 30%. “International tourism returning to Nicaragua would mean a return to normal for us.”

Foreign tourists on the island of Ometepe, one of the country’s prize destinations. Photo: Carlos Herrera / Confidencial

By Juan Carlos Bow  (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – Nicaragua’s tourism sector is experiencing an all-time low since the ‘80s. It won’t grow for the first time in 28 years and its future prospects do not look very promising.  Ever since protests broke out against Daniel Ortega’s Government last April, 83% of tourism companies have reduced their operations by at least 30%, which will lead to a loss of approximately 400 million USD by the end of the year, according to the National Tourism Board’s (CANATUR) forecasts.

Based on an interview with 190 business people, the document also points out that at least 72% of these companies have reduced their payroll by over half, while 13% “negotiated with employees to hold onto half.” 60,840 employees have been laid off in total.

Amid this bleak landscape, the forecast concludes that the sector will generate 500 million USD in revenue this year, which is less than half of what was originally projected for 2018.

CANATUR president, Lucy Valenti, states that the sector will need three to five years to return to 2017 figures, when it generated 840 million USD in revenue and created 120,000 jobs.

Not enough national tourism

According to Valenti, the key to this sector’s recovery lies in international tourism returning to the country, which will only happen if a safe environment is restored. “The tourism industry is all about confidence, a tourist will only go where they feel safe and confident.”

She says that before the ‘90s, Nicaragua didn’t have any international tourism as the country was experiencing a time of turmoil and war. “The tourism industry began to develop once peace was signed,” she adds.

She explains that if Nicaragua doesn’t become safe again, the tourism industry would be able to remain barely afloat with national tourism, but only businesses such as restaurants, not hotels, tourism operators or car rentals.

Things haven’t returned to normal

President of the National Tourism Board (CANATUR), Lucy Valenti, during a press conference. EFE | Confidencial

Drawn up by the Center of Business Development in Tourism (CDETUR), the forecast stresses that a climate of security will only improve once paramilitaries disappear and the Government returns to National Dialogue talks, which were suspended over two months ago.

“International tourism returning to Nicaragua would mean a return to normality for us. Travel warnings continue in our main markets, package holiday agencies still don’t include Nicaragua in their catalogues and airlines haven’t returned to normal. Demand won’t come no matter how much we say things are back to normal, it won’t come while we don’t ensure a climate of security in this country,” Valenti warned.

The document stated that there has been a 61% fall in tourists entering the country between April and July, especially US citizens, followed by Canadians and the Spanish.