Nicaragua comes into its own
The Masaya volcano is just miles from Managua and is a major tourist attraction as people come to see the smoke that boils up from its crater. In the evening, cars sometimes line up the highway, extending back as much as a mile as people wait for a chance to enter the park at night where the experience is even more intense. Photo courtesy Nicaragua Tourism Board.
he Central American nation of Nicaragua is coming into its own as a tourism destination, winning international recognition and global awards for its efforts. Once known as a place of war, violence and political strife – and a place international travelers shied away from – Nicaragua is now drawing crowds of visitors with its volcanoes, beaches and other natural delights, as well as its people. To make the country stand out from the pack, the Nicaragua Tourism Board (INTUR) is emphasizing the “unique and original,” in other words, it’s promoting exactly what makes Nicaragua, well, Nicaragua. The board also talks about what it means to be “Nica,” the shorthand phrase used to describe all things Nicaraguan, and the people from here as well.
The Cerro Negro volcano draws adventure travelers to a new experience, volcano boarding, for a different kind of thrill, sliding down the slope of this still active volcano. Photo courtesy Nicaragua Tourism Board
AMERICAS DUTY FREE & TRAVEL RETAILING OCTOBER 2017
Nicaragua is overcoming a history of war and violence as it invites visitors to see what is unique, original and different about a country that is now being ranked as one of the top ten places to go for world travelers. by
“We are developing a tourism strategy focused on promoting what is ours,” says Nahiry Silwany González, who handles international relations for the marketing and promotion department of INTUR. In an interview in Managua with Americas Duty Free, Silwany González explained what this means. “We want to promote what is ours and identify what it is to be Nicaraguan. Our traditions. Our idiosyncrasies. We are working with this focus, although we are taking into account sustainability as well.“ The sustainability efforts are getting international recognition. The Latin American Travel Association (LATA) gave the Nicaragua Tourist Board its Responsible and Sustainable Tourism Award in June for being “a careful custodian of its ecology and environment.” In making the announcement, LATA praised Nicaragua for developing a strategy that is “in line with the country’s commitment to an environmentally and socially sustainable economy, with the tourist board promoting ecotourism and a model of sustainable development.” And there is much to work with here. According to LATA, Nicaragua is home to 7% of the world’s biodiversity with its volcanoes, rainforests, lakes, mountains, rivers and unspoiled Pacific and Caribbean coasts. “Nicaragua is on the Pacific volcano line, with more than 40 volcanic formations,” according to Mario Tapia, founder and editor of the Nicaraguan cultural magazine Gente de Gallos. Tapia, a long-time journalist and photographer, emphasized the uniqueness of the country’s volcanic chain “Half of them are active. The first inhabitants left their footprints behind in volcanic ash near Lake Managua,” he says. A museum now exists on the site, and according to the museum’s web page, the footprints were found by workers in 1874. The footprints, believed to be 6,000 years old, are considered to be the oldest human footprints in the Americas. But Tapia stresses something else that Nicaragua offers now that it formerly could not: it can make the tourist or traveler feel safe. “Nicaragua is (one of) the most secure countries in Central