The tourism potential of El Salvador

El Salvador's potential as a tourist destination was recently highlighted favorably in an article in CNN Traveller:
El Salvador’s natural environment could, however, prove to be its ultimate economic saviour. And with good reason – its picturepostcard landscapes and valleys contain 25 soaring volcanoes, 321km of largely undeveloped coast line including some of the region’s best surfing beaches, Mayan ruins, inland lakes, colonial towns and colourful indigenous artesanía handicrafts.

To garner tourism investment, the Arena government of president Antonio Saca presented its National Tourism Plan in 2006, aiming to attract two million visitors per year by 2014. A new Ministry of Tourism was created and corporate support sought; Credomatic and American Express are both contributing to the tourism strategy. In April, tourism minister Ruben Rochi visited Qatar and Dubai in search of funding, and secured a deal to air a promotional tourism video on Al Jazeera. TV advertising campaigns are also planned for both CNN and ESPN, and the government is currently lobbying to have the Jiquilisco Bay – which counts 514 animal species, including 87 types of birds – registered as a Unesco Biosphere Reserve

El Salvador’s dawning era of tourism will partly focus on the cluster of hitherto undeveloped beaches near Puerto La Libertad, an hour’s drive from San Salvador. A new sea-front tourism park is being constructed in the small port town. A few kilometres west, electric saws and jackhammers fill the air at El Sunzal beach, a world-class surfing location that attracts wave riders from all over the world.

Those who are not at El Sunzal to challenge the surf are, it seems, building hotels. The new Roca Sunzal rents its comfortable rooms for $50. Among its many neighbours are the smart Roots surf camp and the once-solitary El Tubo Surfers Inn. When I was here seven years ago, the sea-front La Bocana café was the only place to eat. Today, a mini neighbourhood of restaurants, bars and surf shops has emerged, along with a cyber café and a Tourism Police office.

Gazing at the palm-fringed, volcanic black sand beach, frothing white surf and clear blue sky, there is a real sense of potential.(more)


Anonymous said…
The article has some factual errors, talking about major earthquakes in Dec 1999 and January 2000. The big quakes were Jan and Feb 2001. How ironic that it talks about touristic sites like Suchitoto and "things to do when in Suchitoto." Hmm, let's see get teargased, beaten, pepper sprayed, and shot with rubber bullets by the police? Get arrested and charged under a draconian anti-terrorism law for a peaceful protest and in fact by charged for creating mayhem when in fact you weren't even there.

The idea that El Salvador will generate economic growth through tourism is a joke: lots of crime, insecurity, and a growingly repressive government that curtails civil liberties. If people keep being charged under the anti-terrorism law it would be interesting to consider boycotting El Salvador as a site for tourism.

Oh other thing, the export of coffee is an increasingly smaller and smaller part of the economy.
El-Visitador said…
«a peaceful protest»

Anonymous has pretty short memory (or pretty selective memory) 'cause she's already forgotten Tim's video from July 5th that shows the terrorists engaged in:

(a) blocking our right as Salvadorean's to freely circulate in our country's roads
(b) burning stuff in our roads, damaging the people's property
(c) throwing rocks at our police with the clear aim of injuring our most heroic citizens, those who serve and protect

"Peaceful"? On the contrary: disingenuous, dangerous, criminal terrorists. Hopefully to be kept away from civil society for a very long time.
Anonymous said…
I always tell everyone not to go to El Salvador, unless they go with a friend who knows the country very well and if they can stay with the friends family.
El Salvador is a beautiful place, but too many streets are filled with litter and it is just too dangerous to be a tourist area.
Presidente Saca et al, have made the country worse off and more dangerous. El Salvador may become a tourist hot spot, but there's lots of work to get the place secure. The longer Arena is in power, the longer it will take. That is really sad, since El Salvador is a great place. But, it's like putting a bit of dirt in a class of clean water, all the water is contaminated.
Hodad said…
they do not even have a ATM machine in Suchitoto
when my girlfriend last year came down, we got there at dusk, no machine, the hotels would not take Traveler's checks
so we drove at night to San Miguel got a auto hotel

as i said before, I made a web site in 1995 for some tourism,[, on my dollar, and then CORSATUR copied it, of course
now most of the web sites, as per latins are full of pop and flash and bang, and no one looks at them because they take too long to load, whatever]
I was hoping to try to get some tourism or at least interest,
however at the time folks were being robbed on the volcanoes on Sunday's in Church outings
people still say war crime, gangs etc whern i bring up El Salvador

there are still serious problems there as long as the oligarchy remains, and TPS is stopped and remittances are falling, ES is in big trouble,
i will not even get into the corrupt Taiwan and Japanese issues yet
and yes, visitador, i will agree with you on the hassle of having highways blocked by protestors
better another civil war, to get rid of the ARENA and US right winf evangelical hypocritical mess, when Bush gets impeached then maybe ES will follow suit, in their own way
time to go to Ecuadoror Nicaragua it seems for fishing,
Caesar said…
Wow visitador! What a joke!

I suppose you consider the Palistinian intifada a terrorist operation then. Even closer to home,at least in the US,there are protests that:
stop the flow of traffic,have people throwing rocks at the police, burning stuff on the roads (Think WTO, NAFTA, Immigration reform, Wet foot-dry foot policy...the list is numerous). If these are your criteria for labeling someone a terrorist, and fit to serve prison for a "very long time" then I would hate for you to be in a position of power.

I think ES should be more concerned with growing gang activity and corruption than of protest by people who want to better their country.
Anonymous said…
Well, crime is not necessarily a deterrant to tourism, but rather how crime is percieved. Guatemala has a large tourism industry, even with an equally potent gang problem. Meanwhile, Colombia has faced enormous difficulty establishing itself as a tourist destination despite a comparatively developed infrastructure.

At the same time, the current implementation of the terrorist law will not deter tourists. No tourist will ever be charged in El Salvador for terrorism, and the reality is that crime is a much larger threat than government repression.

People dont visit El Salvador because they have an impression that it is a dangerous country. Though this is perhaps true, it is also not too difficult for tourists to stay out of trouble. The alternatives (Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama) seem to be safer, cleaner, and a more developed tourism industry. Costa Rica has huge national parks and two coastlines, Guatemala has indigenous culture and mayan ruins, Panama has the canal.... what does El Salvador have to offer?

Nicaragua has increasingly become a popular tourism destination, particularly among backpackers. Meanwhile, backpackers actively avoid el salvador, prefering to travel through Honduras. With a bit of investment, perhaps El Salvador could at least become a bit of a backpacker hotspot. It has great surfing beaches, volcanoes, lakes, and all close to one another. It is no more chaotic than Nicaragua, and probably a bit better than Guatemala.

At the same time, Tourism will not be El Salvador's salvation as it was for Costa Rica.

I dont mean to undermine the repression of the new terrorism law, but I seriously dont think that this has anything to do with the issue of tourism in El Salvador.