SICA Tourism ministers hosted on Ambergris Caye
Saturday, December 1st, 2012
The Government of Belize, through the Ministry of Tourism, hosted the Central American Integration System (SICA) meeting with representatives from all Central American Countries. The event took place at the Banyan Bay Resort on Ambergris Caye. The delegation was welcomed on the night of Thursday November 29th by the Mayor of San Pedro Daniel Guerrero at a special dinner hosted by the Belize Tourism Board at El Secreto Resort.
In welcoming the vice-ministers of tourism of Central American, Mayor Guerrero said, “It is a privilege and an honor for me to welcome you to this reunion of all the tourism SICA members and similarly we have always welcome our Central American brothers and sisters to our country. In these times, it is very important that we have good ties and working relationships between our brothers and sisters of neighboring countries. It is one way we can strengthen Central America and work together in developing our region to make things better for our people and our region.”
On Friday November 30th, the Ministers met at the Banyan Bay conference room during which the assembly of the Central American countries’ representatives, Government and private sectors, reviewed the progress of tourism initiatives to structure a way forward as a unified regional body. The tourism ministers held discussions that will act as a platform for invested bodies, such as the Central American Travel Agency (CATA) which is governed by the private sector. They also engage in dialogue about the future of CATA as well as the impact of past restructuring efforts by the SICA countries.
Speaking at SICA press conference, Belize’s Minister of Tourism Manuel Heredia Jr. said that tourism figures for Central America as of August showed that 8.255 million tourists visited the region showing a 4.4% growth compared to the figures for the same period in 2011. With the exception of Costa Rica and Guatemala, which receive more regional tourists, over 50% of the tourists that visited the other Central American countries are from North America. According to Heredia, one of the main discussions was on strengthening the tourism marketing strategy for Central America, promoting the region as a multi-destination. “We are trying to sell Central America as a package and I feel like doing that we can attract more tourists into the different areas. We are also speaking about the strengthening of CATA which is an office we have in Europe and we feel that it can be strengthened with new emerging destinations such as Brazil, Argentina, Chile and other areas in South America and looking into other avenues into the USA that we have not been tapping,” said Minister Heredia.
The vice-ministers of tourism also discussed the issue of security and crime in the region and its effect it can have on the tourism fabric of Central America. “We are looking at ways as to how we can tackle and battle crime as it is very important if we want our tourism to grow. We have to make sure as a region that we can combat the crime and security that we need to have for our tourists,” said Heredia, who added that while there is a regional approach, each country is independently addressing the issue from within the country, but highlighted that at the SICA level, they shared ideas and information.
Other tabled discussions will be made by the Central American Tourism Integration System (SITCA) as well was the layout “2013 Action Plan,” for SICA and the update on the 2013 CATAM Tradeshow. Other SITCA countries that were represented Nicaragua, Panamá, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala as well as Platinum SICA member (AVIANCA-TACA) and the investment tourism project for Mexico FONATUR. The Dominican Republic was also present as special observers of SICA. The meeting concluded with the delegate visiting Elvi’s Kitchen, where they were hosted by the Belize Tourism Board to the always delicious Maya buffet.