El Salvador’s Ministry of Tourism will receive a $25 million loan by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to finance the development of tourism attractions in the La Libertad and Usulután coastal regions.
Tourism is a young but dynamic sector in El Salvador, as the number of hotels and restaurants grew by 30 percent over the past seven years, and the number of international tourist arrivals climbed to 1.25 million in 2012. Domestic tourism accounts for over 4 million trips a year.
However, most of the country’s beaches and other coastal attractions lack the infrastructure required to increase the number of overnight visitors or to treat wastewater generated by such activities. The national development plan has made tourism a priority to improve job opportunities.
Coupled with other projects being carried out as part of a broader coastal development strategy, the IDB-financed project will help El Salvador boost tourism revenue and employment in La Libertad, which is known as a destination for surfers, and Usulután, which is home to the largest mangroves in Central America.
The project will finance multiple infrastructure works such as boardwalks, piers, wharfs, handcraft markets, scenic outlooks, visitor centers and wildlife wildlife observation points. The goal is that such public amenities will enable further private investments in lodging and other tourism services that will attract more visitors for longer stays.
In addition, the project will support local micro, small and medium-size businesses in improving their services for tourists and will help strengthen the institutions responsible for tourism and environmental management in the coastal regions.
The project will also finance improvements in wastewater treatment in key tourism centers, including Alegría, El Tunco, Jiquilisco and Puerto El Triunfo. Land use plans and other environmental studies will also be carried out for the Bálsamo Coast and the Jiquilisco Bay.Tourism offers the possibility of developing jobs and bringing in foreign investment and tourist dollars. Yet unregulated development also could threaten ecologically sensitive portions of the coast. Recently the folks at Voices on the Border have been highlighting the opposition of communities dependent on the Bay of Jiquilisco to possible resort development in the area. Both Tony Saca and Salvador Sanchez Ceren have listed tourism development as part of the platforms of their presidential campaigns, so the question of how to balance the costs and benefits of tourism will be an ongoing topic in the country.