Tourism began in Central America recover after the impact of the international economic crisis and the number of visitors grew 11% in 2010, generating revenues of $ 7.341 million which helped create 21,000 jobs, officials said.
The total number of tourists and hikers (visitors a day) was 11,838,400 last year, according to a report by the Secretariat Tourist Integration System (SICA), delivered to AFP.
Of the total, 7,930,600 were 3,907,800 tourists and hikers.
“In Central America, tourism grew by 3.8% (last year) with the arrival of 290,900 tourists more than in 2009,” the report said. Meanwhile, the number of hikers, including cruise passengers, grew 29.6%, he adds.
The largest influx of visitors allowed to increase employment in the sector, which grew 6.1%, from 346,000 to 367,000, according to the balance of SICA.
“This shows the clear recovery of the sector in 2010 before the global economic crisis in 2008 and 2009, also highlights the growing importance of the category of hikers, including cruise (cruise passengers),” the report said.
The main destinations of the tourists were Costa Rica (2 million), Panama (1.3 million) and Guatemala (1.2), while the hikers were Honduras (1.1 million), Belize (764 600) and Guatemala (657 100).
The visitors left 7.341 million dollars in the isthmus, a 0.9% increase over the previous year, according to the balance, equivalent to 5.9% of regional Gross Domestic Product.
The increased revenues from tourism of Panama won (2,552 million), Costa Rica (1,961 million) and Guatemala (1,378 million).
41.8% of visitors came from other Central American countries of North America 37.1%, 9.4% Europe, 9% of South America and the remaining 2.7% in other regions.
Also slightly increased the number of hotels and hostels in the isthmus, from 7187-7298. The occupancy rate was 56%, up 6.9 points compared to 2009.
“These indicators show a clear recovery in tourism investment, accompanied by an increase in effective demand for hotel and its consequent impact on major sources of employment in general within the sector,” the newsletter of the SICA slogan.
However, not all figures were positive, as reduced spending of tourists and their length of stay.
The average expenditure per tourist fell by a fifth, from $ 105 per day in 2009 to 84 last year, while the nights of stay fell from 8.6 to 8.4 per person.
The increased flow of visitors came in the first and the fourth quarter, coinciding with the year-end holidays and the Christmas season. This period coincides with the dry season, in a region of abundant rainfall from May to November.
With 521,033 km2 and almost 43 million people, Central tendered multicultural and multi-destination, including colonial cities, volcanoes, archaeological sites and forest reserves. It also has hundreds of beaches in its 5570 km of coastline on the Pacific and the Caribbean.
The main obstacle to tourism is the uncertainty, as there are high rates of violence in the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras).
SICA projections indicate that tourism will grow in 2011 to range between 4 and 10% depending on the country.