CATA’s outlook for Central America tourism initiatives in 2018

The Central American Tourism Agency (CATA) – the tourism promotional organization agency for the countries of Central America (Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama as well as the Dominican Republic) – has announced a spate of new projects and campaigns to boost tourism to the region.

With the region experiencing a rise in visitor numbers in Q1 2018 – as well as new flight coverage between Central America and Europe and uptick in infrastructure investment – CATA members are keen to take advantage of this very positive period and drive travel to the region

An increase in first quarter visitors 2018, investments in tourism infrastructure, new flight routes and more regular connections between Europe and Central America spur multi-centre travel to the region. Below are  some of the tourism development highlights in Central America.

El Salvador

El Salvador has recently invested in a number of tourism development initiatives such as the reconstruction of the Hotel de Montaña Cerro Verde overlooking the Izalco Volcano in the Cerro Verde National Park, a remodelling of El Triunfo docks and the construction of Bosque Encantador Ecotourism Park in Jiquilisco.

The destination welcomed 132,000 visitor arrivals during Easter 2018, a 17.2% year-on-year increase. Tourist taxes in this period contributed $85 million to the El Salvadorian economy. The last four years have also seen a 12% rise in the number of international cruise ship arrivals.

MICE in Costa Rica

The new minister of tourism for Costa Rica, María Amalia Revelo, has outlined her plan to boost the country’s tourism over the coming years by promoting smaller businesses, increasing transport to and from the country, and positioning Costa Rica as a leading MICE destination.

Costa Rica is well placed to establish and implement collaborative strategies between the public and private sectors to boost incoming tourism, with much of the on implementing new products and services especially food cultural and authentic regional experiences.

The Costa Rica Tourism Board has welcomed a total of 40,907 visitors from the UK between January and June 2018, representing a 2.5% year on year increase. The Irish market has also seen a dramatic increase with 2,400 visitors to the country in the same period illustrating a 17% year on year increase.


Belize has been praised for its ‘visionary’ steps in conservation after UNESCO removed the world’s second largest barrier reef from the list of threatened World Heritage Sites. This monumental achievement has direct implications for neighbouring countries Honduras, Mexico and Guatemala who share the submarine wonder.

Belize has experienced a recent surge in international visitors thanks to the arrival of cruise ships throughout the year. Overnight European visitors alone have shown a 24.3% increase in Q1 and Q2 of 2018 compared to that of the same period in 2017.

Dominican Republic

The Dominican Health Tourism Association president, Alejandro Cambiaso, has announced that the Dominican Republic ranks fifth in the Medical Tourism Index for countries with most potential in development within the Health Tourism sector.

The Dominican Republic has recorded 4.1 million tourist arrivals from January to July this year, 5.9% up year on year.


The Honduran Institute of Tourism estimates that over the course of 2018, $350 million will be invested in public and private projects that could generate up to 23,000 new jobs.  Investments include the construction of tourism properties such as the recently opened Hyatt Place San Pedro Sula, and the second phase of construction on the cruise port in Roatán.

Honduras has seen a 5% increase in international tourist arrivals in 2017 and expects a 6% increase for 2018. Honduran authorities estimate that the spike in 2017 generated US$2.122 million for the national economy and are looking to exceed that figure for 2018.

New flight routes

Iberia Airlines has opened a new flight route to Managua, Nicaragua, from London via Madrid.

Lufthansa has also launched direct flights between Frankfurt and San José, Costa Rica, operating five days a week. This will act as a direct gateway into Central America from Europe, working alongside the German airline’s flight route into Panama City. KLM and Air France also provide regular flights to Panama and Costa Rica.

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