The role tourism plays in emerging economies has been well documented over the years. From job creation to significant monetary gains, the tourism sector ranks in the top three categories for economic development in most emerging economies.
In El Salvador tourism is already proving that it can be a force to be reckoned with, but it is not something that happens overnight or without effort – so sustained, aggressive promotional campaigns are a mandatory prerequisite for success.
CORSATUR and the Ministry of Tourism are working very hard to promote the country using the slogan “El Salvador... Impressive.” The aim is to attract tourists from different countries including the Eurozone. José Napoleón Duarte Duran, the Minister of Tourism for El Salvador, presided over an innovative international marketing campaign in 2009, which is expected to draw two million visitors to the country by 2014. As part of this international campaign, authorities in El Salvador invested in a promotional campaign in London in which 20 taxis were decorated with images of the Ilamatepec and Izalco Volcanoes as well as other nature and adventure destinations within the country… showing the diversity of this beautiful land.
Surfing is another area the government are heavily promoting as increasing numbers of surfers visit El Zonte, Sunzal and La Libertad, prime spots that are not yet overcrowded.
El Salvador is also hosting the ISA World Masters Surfing Championship between October 16-23 this year. “I’m thrilled about the upcoming ISA World Championship,” said ISA President Fernando Aguerre. “This is the most amazing competition for any master surfer in the world. Combine this with such an epic wave like the Punta Roca, and you’ll get is one of the greatest surfing displays you can imagine.”
Sports aside, the government is well aware that in order to keep the economy moving forward it must attract foreign direct investment. Consequently, it has modified Article 36 of the Tourism Law: fiscal incentives have been maintained, while the minimum capital needed to attract SME’s has been reduced.
As tourism in El Salvador continues to grow - with 40 per cent travelling there for the sun and beaches, 38 per cent for the colonial structures and history, and 22 per cent for the mountains and volcanoes – the use of the U.S. dollar as Salvadoran currency and direct flights of 4-6 hours from most cities in the United States is a definite bonus.
Currently, tourists to El Salvador can be classified into four groups: Central Americans; North Americans; Salvadorans living abroad (primarily in the United States); and Europeans and South Americans.
The task of promoting tourism has just begun, and Mr Duarte concludes, “One of our goals is that the country achieve worldwide recognition as a travel destination because there is no doubt that we are an undiscovered destination.”