Central American Tourism Boards -- Part Two

Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama

Geographically, Central America is the narrow waist that joins broad shouldered North America to the wide hips at the top of South America. Geologically, Central America is a volcanic land mass that erupted from the Pacific Ring of Fire millions of years ago, then drifted eastward, only to get stuck in the gap between the two continents. Culturally, Central America is home to a 3000-year-old indigenous civilization, modified but not destroyed by a European civilization half its age. Economically, Central America is a Latin American region that values tourism and rewards professionals who promote and create international tourist traffic to its seven nations.

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    Vistas de Roatan, Honduras

     Oscar Hernán Solis / Getty Images

    Honduras is the least expensive Central American country for tourists. Attractions include Mayan ruins at Copan, Caribbean Bay islands Roatan, Utila and Guanaja, colonial cities, mountains, forests, and two coastlines. Backpacking and scuba diving in Honduras are popular with the energy drink crowd.

    For a comprehensive discussion of Honduran tourism, history, culture and geography, visit Honduras.com, a fine site created and maintained by volunteers. The Honduran Institute of Tourism also has an English language consumer site to complement its primary Spanish language site. Tourism professionals will also want to check out the website of the Honduran Chamber of Tourism, a public/private partnership chamber of commerce style trade association that serves all sectors of the tourism industry.

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    Scenic View Of Sea And Mountains Against Sky

     Ewelina Kol / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Nicaragua is among the least expensive and safest countries in Latin America. Nicknamed the "land of lakes and volcanoes," Nicaragua has three geographical regions; its two coasts, Caribbean and Pacific, and the verdant tropical highlands between. It also has active volcanoes, tropical Caribbean islands, board worthy Pacific surf, a classic Spanish colonial city, and one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.

    Tourism niches include ecotourism, adventure tourism, geological tourism, and indigenous cultural tourism. Two liquid-themed tours are particularly popular. One is the delicious "Coffee Route," which explores tropical forests and coffee plantations in the Northern part of the country. The other, less potable tour, is the "Water Route," a river tour of the South.

    Tourism is Nicaragua's second most important industry. INTUR, the Institute of Tourism, is the primary government agency responsible for developing, promoting and regulating tourism. In addition to its main website, linked to heading 2 above, the Institute has an English language consumer site.

    The US State Department, in a report entitled Doing Business in Nicaragua: A Country Commercial Guide for U.S, Companies, states that "Nicaragua offers business opportunities in the tourism sector that are enhanced by attractive tax incentives. Nicaragua's emerging tourism industry allows for opportunities to those entrepreneurs who fully accept the risk of investing in Nicaragua, especially with regard to disputes over land title and lack of supportive infrastructure." The report elaborates, "The Government of Nicaragua offers several incentives for the tourism industry, including the Tourism Incentive Law, Law 306, which provides incentives and benefits for investments in lodging, food and beverages, tour operators, transportation of tourists, and airlines, among others. The Government of Nicaragua's Ministry of Tourism actively promotes this sector, along with Nicaragua's Investment Promotion Agency, PRONicaragua. The National Tourism Chamber represents private sector participation in this industry."

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    Casco Viejo at Panama City, Panama

     L. Toshio Kishiyama / Getty Images

    "A man, a plan, a canal, Panama." This famous palindrome celebrates two wonders of the world, the Panama Canal and its eponymous location.

    The southernmost nation on the isthmus that joins North and South America, Panama presents a unique mix of modernity, history, biodiversity and technology. A tropical forest primeval, inhabited by descendants of unconquerable indigenous people and escaped slaves, surrounds modern and colonial urban centers, and a continent-wide technological marvel.

    Panama's primary attractions include its canal, beaches, tropical biodiversity, cultural wealth, and cosmopolitan cities. Centrally located, Panama has become an international airline hub, with connections to major airports everywhere. Its international accessibility, urban modernity, and proximity to tropical delights, has made Panama a prime site for business conventions and incentive tourism, cruises and vacations.

    Most importantly for our readers, Panama has a combination of laws and infrastructure designed to promote development of tourism. Panama's economic health and pro-business policies make it a magnet for tourism-related investments. The Ministry of Tourism's Master Plan appears at their primary website, linked to the heading above. Additional information is available at the official website of the Republic of Panama visitpanama.com.