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.