Saturday, September 01, 2007

Tourism and safety

An article on the In the Know Traveler web site points to statistics showing an increase in tourism to El Salvador in 2006 and quotes government officials who claim the growth is due to an improved public security situation in the country:

A study conducted by the World Tourism Organization shows that the number of visitors to El Salvador increased by 17 percent in 2006, compared to the previous year.

[El Salvador's Minister of Tourism José Rubén] Rochi attributes this growth to the government’s 2014 National Tourism Plan, which includes holistic measures to ensure a safer environment to both locals and foreign visitors.

This year, the number of U.S. tourists traveling to El Salvador has increased by 24 percent and the number of Canadians by 51 percent, said Rochi. Additionally, international visitors’ average daily spending has increased from $91.30 in 2005 to $93.90 in 2006 due to an increase in daily consumption, as well as in the number of days per visit, which is averaging 6 to 7.3 days.

“There is no doubt in my mind that El Salvador’s safer environment has had a positive impact on tourism,” said Rochi. “The government has implemented various measures destined to increase tourism, including the establishment of a larger, better-trained and better equipped security force charged with assisting visitors.”

“We have put into place a series of security mechanisms to ensure the safety of tourists who visit our country,” says Rene Figueroa, Minister of Security. “To date, we have not had any incidents involving tourists. Regardless we continue with our commitment to ensure “safe tourism” as this segment is key to increasing the country’s growth and development.”

“The idea is to change the erroneous perception that our country has been taken hostage by gangs,” said Figueroa. “That is far from the truth. This phenomenon only impacts 15 of the 262 municipalities, similarly to the situation experienced by the city of New York,”

While the readers of this blog would certainly encourage visitors to El Salvador -- for the friendliness of its people, its pupusas, its beaches, volcanoes and other sights -- the Consular Information Sheet for El Salvador issued by the US State Department may provide a more accurate description of the safety situation. It is worth pointing out, that crime targeted specifically against foreigners seems fairly uncommon in El Salvador, something which is not the case in Guatemala. Yet Guatemala has the stronger tourism industry. Go figure.


Don said...

When I was there with my wife and brother-in-law last September, we didn't have any problems. But we were with Salvadorans the whole time.

After our day on the beach (Playa Costa del Sol), we stopped at the airport to pick up someone who was arriving from España. It was Día de Independencia. Before leaving the airport to travel back through San Salvador on the way back to Santa Ana, I overheard the drivers telling each other to keep the cars together and that we weren't stopping for any reason. Obviously they were taking precautions.

Nevertheless, we never felt insecure or threatened in any way. It might have been different if we had been on our own.

wally said...

I've been saying this for years. You just don't hear much of extranjeros being victims of violence here. A lot of people come here on short term mission trips and I've never met anyone who has run into serious trouble. In Guatemala it's a different story. In the last couple of years a Mormon group was robbed and one person was killed, and a youth group from Honduras visiting Guatemala had their leader killed when he tried to outrun the bandits in a van. Again there may be instances here that I've missed but if they happened it was under the radar. My friends in NGO's in El Salvador have stories of robberies but that comes for workers that have been here for long periods of time, and also visit a lot of places tourists don't go. I haven't checked lately but at one time Guatemala was rated a safer place to visit than El Salvador on the State Department web site. I'm not sure why. I've never heard of convoys with police escorts operating on the Salvadoran side of the border, but there were two convoys a day leaving for Guatelmala City from the Salvadoran frontera. Like you said, go figure.

SalvaAlchemist said...

The thing Guatemala has going is it's Eco tourism, something that has boomed in that country the last 5-7 years. That's why so many poeple go there. I read that it's starting to creep up on Costa Rica which has the same amount, if not more rain forest and jungle. With the addition of the Mayan ruins and a very rich indigenous culture. No other country except Peru and Bolivia can offer the same. Guatemala is closer than the both of them.

With that being said, El Salvador just has a bad rap sheet it needs to change. It's good news to hear that it is at least heading towards the right direction. But has it occured to anyone that maybe some of the tourist from Guatemala may be pouring over into El Salvador?

HODAD26 said...

ok, ok, time for commercial

my first site in 96 was, but at that time they were robbing church groups on Sunday on volcano excursions
oh well, times have changed
just as in all over the world, keep your eyes and ears open, you are not at home, well here in Myrtle Beach, downtown is dangerous
the chamber keeps the violence out of the newspapers
I was beaten in Taipei, go figure
El Sal has all you want.
way better than Costa, and less costly AND we have Mayan ruins, they do not
it is just that Guatemala is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, mainly for the indigenous peoples
even took my Mom there on 1990, have tanks in the street once while she was there, ummmmmmm....

alassleves said...

my cousin and her husband visited the country after almost 30 years living in utah, usa. all the family went to the airport. we were in 7 cars. we were going to santa ana too, and we tell each other to keep the cars together in line, and we give each not to stop in the way, not because we are scary or in panic because of criminals:first, just to keep together in case someone needs first aid, a flat tire, things like these. also salvadoreans have strong sense of group. second, it was noon and to avoid the traffic jams in the panamericana highway we drove to santa ana by the longer and not very well know nejapa road. i think the same happened to don's friends: it was independence day and the city is jammed and chaotic with paredes and all kind of independence celebrations.
i am in contact with backpackers, dozens of them, and nobody has had the lesser problem in el salvador, not even woman traveling alone.

HODAD26 said...

last summer took my girlfriend at the time, a surgical nurse of 53, took her to Central Market and we drove all over, even from Suchitoto at night{cannot believe they did not have one ATM machine in the whole town}
to San Miguel, stayed at one of the auto hotels, lol
and then drove all over, La Union tourist fair, to Vernonica Namtal's incredible place at El Congo, to Ruinas San Andres,El Cuco and even took a bus or two in San Salvador

even in the central market after I said, hey just give a smile, she did not fell uncomfortable, it was her first time out of the USA
she said" no wonder you like it here",
yes the people are one of the reasons and treasures El Salvador is a great country, no matter what the USA did to them during the years

costa rica said...
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