Thinking about a tourism industry for El Salvador

The Salvadoran blog Hunnapuh recently wrote about El Salvador as a tourist destination. The Spanish language blog extolled El Salvador's virtues stemming from geographic diversity in its small area. One can go from cool mountain cloud forests to warm sunny beaches in a matter of hours. Yet Hunnapuh recognized how the high crime rate in the country deters tourists. The two things which are needed are control of crime, and the development of types of tourism which allow small businesses to earn tourist dollars and not just multi-national hotel chains.

That post got me thinking about what types of tourism are available to El Salvador, beyond the big business type of massive resort hotels along beaches. Here are some ideas:

Coffee Tourism -- Another Salvadoran blogger, El Visitador, recently talked about the possibility of tourism involving the El Salvador's coffee industry and the process of growing, harvesting and roasting El Salvador's gourmet coffees. He was commenting on a recent article by award winning coffee brewer Jim Seven describing his recent visit to the coffee fincas of El Salvador. As gourmet coffees continue to surge in popularity in the developed world, could there be tourism similar to the tourism which travels to the vineyards of the world?

War tourism -- An article on the web site Raices describes the efforts of former FMLN guerrillas to attract tours to hear their stories of the struggle on the flanks of the Guazapa volcano. They take tourists to see the encampments and tunnels on the mountain where fighters hid from the bombardments and raids of the army.

In many ways, there is already "war tourism" which goes on in El Salvador. Each year, many persons come to visit the sites of the martyrs of the Salvadoran civil war. They visit the tomb of Oscar Romero, they see the site of the killing of the six Jesuits at the University of Central America, and they visit the memorial to the victims of the war in Cuscatlan Park. Is the country ready to look at an honest portrayal of the truth of its civil war as an attraction to foreign visitors? Perhaps not.

Homecoming tourism -- of all potential types of tourism, this form has surged the most in recent years. Tens of thousands of former Salvadorans, now living in the US and elsewhere, return to visit family and relatives.


Anonymous said…
Excellent. I am a tourism specialist associated with Guia Turistico y Periodico Zona Azul, located in Puerto de La Libertad and soon we are meeting with the Minister of Tourism here in the new offices in San Salvador. Definetly when I post in forums based in the USA, the first question I must answer about El Salvador is regarding safety.
El-Visitador said…
"earn tourist dollars and not just multi-national hotel chains"

Just how disingenuous is this comment? Whenever you bring tourists to this high-risk country, you spread a bunch of money around to a lot of people.

Let's talk Decameron, the first and only "multinational" all-inclusive beach resort in El Salvador, and which brings tons of Canucks who stay a week or more:

A. hotel employees
B. transport companies for airport-hotel transfers
C. small tour operators for those who risk leaving the premises
D. foodservice providers to the hotel
E. airline and airport employees (especially Taca that has charter deals with Decameron)
F. government that profiteers no less than 13% VAT and 5% Tourism Boondogle (sorry, Ministry) plus over $42 in airport/inmigration taxes per person plus 30% income taxes on any profit the Decameron hotel happens to make.

I'll betcha the gvm't rackets in way more $$$ than the "multinational chain" investors.

And others get a chance to get a small slice of the pie too, either directly with the Canucks, now, or in the future, with repeat or referral future tourists. None of this would have happened without the "evil" bad multinational investment.
Anonymous said…
With all the publicity about high crime rates here, and Ï´m sure most of it is based on fact, one type of crime you don´t hear much about is crime against tourists and extranjeros. We´ve lived here for almost three years now, and most of the larceny we´ve encountered has come from people we buy things from. In that same time period I´ve seen several stories about missionaries and relief workers being robbed and killed in Guatemala, but none here. To drive into Guatemala it´s advised to meet at the border at a certain time so you can convoy by police escort into Guatemala City, but you never need that here. We host mission teams several times a year and we´ve never had reason to fear for their safety. We´re careful, and do what the local people tell us to do, which is hard for a lot of gringos, but we´ve never had any problems. The crime problem exists, but at least for now it doesn´t seem to affect extranjeros very much. I feel much safer here than in Guatemala or Honduras.
Hodad said…
I have stayed at Decameron in San Andres, Colombia, actually quite nice for packaged deals,from Cali to there and back but is what 'stay at the resort' and we will entertain youtype of gig,getting out is not encouraged, as I assume most of the 'big boyz' will also promote versus mingling with the people, and the people are what makes EL SALVADOR!
Not Me, I went all over the island, and hungout in towm with locals andSan Andres I would say is the best island in the Caribe, and what is funny and great is that there are no direct flights from USA to San Andres
and Colombia, all over wanted to know why I lived in El Salvador as dangerous as it is there??!!??
go figure, bad press?
more dangerous here in downtown Myrtle Beach than Colombia
and the few times I was in jail in El Salvador, for the mandatory 3 days, who feed me, los maras, ummm??
I also am there to create jobs and opportunites
anyway, I made a web page for El Salvador,in 1995 maybe the first or 2nd called
just trying to get some tourism down, as I was at the time also starting to build LIPS[ my money and my Investment, and on from there[another story, soon to be blogged on corruption and more of a N. American gringo's experiences in trying to do business and live in El Salvador]
CORSATUR also copied my web site at first in 1997 they are clueless and do not even answer e mails and most of the sites are too much pop and flash.....

I now have another site
to get some tourism, and our target markets are EU and UK, not gringoes! [go to Costa Rica with all the other assholes]
and older green party style types educated folks that still want to fish,dive,surf,horesback ride, see FMLN sites, musuems, concerts, day spas, etc.
for me El Salvador is still the country with the bigest heart, and I have traveled, much of the world.
we are trying,and I will be returning soon to do what I initially started in 1990 in Guatemala with the small scale fishermen, [but got sidetraked, you know, mid-life crisis's and all]
but time to return and to surf each day like was your last,as i did before as the best most consistent waves on this planet are in Salvador-Guatemala. no contest. I know.[Indo, Asia, all of Mex and to Panama,Ecuador,Peru, OZ, etc.]
so it is a shame as you said the 'big boys' are coming in, but tourism in El Salvador is still in its infancy for gringoes due to bad stereotyping, for me since 1983, it is the best place to be, the best workers in the world, and a country that the USA owes big time for all the bad things the USA has done to guanacos over the years
Peace to all
and "eat mo' fish" sayz Sr. Pescado
oh, and please visit my socio's Ciber Cafe in San Salvador, Max is cool guy and well educated and traveled and works hard.
it is at #200 Avenida Bernal in Miramonte
soon there will be a small pensiaonado there which is quite convenient and he is fluent English and some German
and oh, wqe will recomend AA or Avianca, or Continental because TACA sux
Carlos X. said…
Romero related war tourism is becoming a bit of a cottage industry. For the 25th anniversary, official figures had the number of foreign visitors at somewhere around 7 or 8 thousand. The actual figure could be much higher. PBS' tourism show host Rick Steve ("Backdoor Europe" and other series) posted a special report on the Romero "pilgrimage" ("romero" means "pilgrim" in Spanish) on his website.
Hodad said…
thanks so much for that info
as far as those figures, I am sure you are probably correct, not many actual 'tourists' coming to El Salvador to be 'tourists'
since 1983, I was a surfer,
7-10 hours surfing, then you came in 3 times to eat, sleep, roll a joint, sleep and then surf again [but in the mid 80's not very good cannabis]
and a cheap place to crash, when you were expending 5-6000 calories daily to enjoy the waves, one did not do much else,
as far as Romero, as much as I detest the Ctholic church in Latinolandia, since seeing what they were about in Zacatecas in 1976 first time Mexican Cathedral, first time i was appalled[but I have read, 'Davinci Code, 100 Years of Solitude, Michener, Isabel Allende,Neruda,Borge, Tom Robbins, etc,]
Romerpo should be and a saint for the Catholics and as a Buddhist he is/was a Hero to me,
so why not bring some folks to visit memoriums that he was present at, even including the place he was assasinated, if not just to say a prayer}} and around the corner from our ciber\cafe and believe me, i do not like passing by there when i drive up to Constitution to go to the store]
but he is venered, and a true
'believer in the faith and power 'of the people'
Viva El Salvador
I have traveled to El Salvador many times in the past 12 years -- my first trips involved mission work and now I travel to enjoy the beautiful sites and the many adventure opportunities -- without fighting crowds! I am involved with a company called Tamarindo Touring Company (TTC). TTC is an adventure touring company trying to provide jobs and hope for Salvadorans by promoting tourism to El Salvador. Potential clients are very concerned about the crime in El Salvador. I have tried to find sites that reference the fact that crimes against tourists are nearly non-existent, but this type of information is impossible to find. The Salvadoran Ministry of Tourism must be encouraged to publish some facts that will alleviate potential travelers' fears regarding the crime rates. We have always heard El Salvador is one of the safest of the Central American countries for tourist. Where are the statistics that support this? We have seen tourism police in towns like Suchitoto and areas such as the National Volcano Park. Areas like El Impossible and Monte Cristo closely monitor who is entering these parks and when -- so why isn't this type of information shared to help alleviate the concerns? I appreciate your blog and the fact that you have raised this issue and are looking for solutions for tourism in El Salvador.