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#118891 - 03/09/06 09:45 AM Where the hell is Belize?
CeTigges Offline
Is Belize not considered a part of central america? I would have thought it would have been included in this story. Our little secret I guess.
WE were on AC just a few weeks ago, and did the day trip to Tikal in Guatamala, and I have to say it was an incredibly beautiful place. We will be back.

Multi-country tours promoted as Central America tourism surges
By Kathia Martinez, Associated Press
PANAMA CITY — Ten or 20 years ago, mentions of countries like Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala conjured up visions of soldiers and civil war.
Attracted by its exhuberant nature and indigenous cultures, more tourists are visiting such locales as San Juan Comalapa, Chimaltenango, west of Guatemala City. Attracted by its exhuberant nature and indigenous cultures, more tourists are visiting such locales as San Juan Comalapa, Chimaltenango, west of Guatemala City.

But today Central America has become a tourism hot spot. The isthmus between Mexico and Colombia is better known for its culture and wildlife than its war-torn past. And tourism revenue has surpassed that of most local industries.

Now regional officials are trying to encourage visitors to experience the region the way Americans have long traveled in Europe — by taking in several countries in one trip.

Some 20 companies in Europe, mostly Italy, Spain and Britain, already promote tours of Central America that include visits to multiple countries in the region. And Air Costa Rica and Air Panama are trying to capitalize on the trend by opening two new routes between the Costa Rican capital of San Jose and two popular destinations in Panama.

Promoting regional tourism is seen as a way of improving other aspects of life in Central America, from the economy to law enforcement to health and education.
Belize: http://www.travelbelize.org
/cont.html or (800) 624-0686.
Cost Rica: http://www.visitcostarica.com/ or (800) 343-6332.
El Salvador: http://www.elsalvadortrade.
Guatemala: http://www.visitguatemala.com/site/
Honduras: http://www.letsgohonduras.com/ or (011) (504) 222-2124, ext. 502.
Nicaragua: http://www.visit-nicaragua.com or (888) 733-6422.
Panama: http://www.visitpanama.com or (011) (507) 226-7000.
Major airlines flying to Central America: Delta, Iberia, Taca, United Airlines, US Airways, Mexicana, American Airlines, Martin Air, Continental Airlines, Cubana de Aviacion, Avianca, Sol Air.
Regional tourism websites: http://
www.enjoycentralamerica.com/ or

"Tourism is the passport to peace," said Sara Sanchez, Panama's tourism minister.

The number of visitors coming to Central America has spiked notably in the past two years. In 2004, some 5.7 million people visited the region and spent more than $4 billion, up 14% from 2003.

Preliminary data indicates that some 6.5 million tourists — mostly from the United States, Mexico and Canada — visited Central America last year.

Nicaraguan Tourism Minister Maria Rivas said the Sept. 11 attacks contributed to the growth.

"They are coming to destinations that are closer and safer," she said.

Marcos Gandasegui, whose Ancon Expedition travel agency specializes in nature tours, described the spike after Sept. 11 as an "explosion." He said the appearance of SARS in Asia also encouraged many to turn to Central America for their vacation plans.

Regional officials say they have been working for years to build up the so-called "industry without smokestacks" by encouraging investment, culture and the development of a regional market.

"It's not something that grew up unplanned," said Coralia Dreyfus, a tourism official with the Central American Integration System. "It has been something that the seven countries of the region have been working on."

Still, Gandasegui said the growing industry has forced countries to focus on tourism and related projects, like strengthening infrastructure, health and education in their countries.
AP file photo
Tourists walk in front of the Cathedral of the Asuncion in Leon, north of Managua, Nicaragua.

One thing the region doesn't need to develop is its natural resources: pristine beaches, coral reefs, some 900,000 different species of plants and animals, and rich and varied cultures fed by the countries' native Indian heritage, European colonialism and coastal settlements.

For El Salvador and Guatemala, two countries that survived years of civil conflict, tourism has become the countries' second-largest source of income, after money sent home by migrants living in the United States.

Last year, 13 years after peace accords ended that country's civil war, 1.1 million people visited El Salvador and spent $644 million. In Guatemala, where the civil war ended in 1996, 1.3 million tourists visited, spending $868 million.

Panama has also worked to build up its tourism industry, converting many of the former U.S. installations turned over with the canal hand-over in 1999 into restaurants, resorts and even an upscale cruise ship-docking station. The country has been so successful that tourism revenues have risen to $860 million, surpassed only by revenues from the Panama Canal.

Nicaragua and Honduras have the smallest number of tourists, with 700,000 and 800,000 annual visitors respectively. But both countries rely heavily on tourism dollars, with Nicaragua seeing $190 million from visitors and Honduras with $500 million annually. Nicaragua has also just lately begun promoting its tourism industry, and has received lavish coverage in many top travel publications aimed at affluent Americans.

Costa Rica is the region's granddaddy in the industry, especially eco-tourism. Last year, 1.6 million people spent $1.5 billion hiking its cloud forests, touring its volcanos, sunning on its beaches and observing its famous wildlife.

Associated Press reporters Marcos Aleman in El Salvador; Freddy Cuevas in Honduras; Marianela Jimenez and Tatiana Lopez in Costa Rica and Juan Zamorano in Panama contributed to this report.
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

#118892 - 03/09/06 10:04 AM Re: Where the hell is Belize?
PalapaBob Offline
Sure wish it would stay a secret, but I suppose it's the last one to move in and close the door afterword syndrome.
I've already told you more than I know.

#118893 - 03/09/06 10:25 AM Re: Where the hell is Belize?
Belikin Bill Offline
Hey Guatamala stills claims Belize is part of it!!

#118894 - 03/09/06 12:04 PM Re: Where the hell is Belize?
Dan Carey Offline
Belize suffers from an identity crisis of sorts. While it's technically part of mainland Central America, it's also aligned with the Caribbean countries. For example, Belize is part of CARICOM, the economic and trade organization that represents the Caribbean area, so Belize wasn't included in CAFTA[1].

On the other hand, Belize might be considered an outsider to the Central American system because they don't hold regularly scheduled revolutions, but that's just conjecture on my part.


Note 1. CAFTA is to Central America what NAFTA is to North America.
"Facts are the enemy of Truth"
Don Quixote

#118895 - 03/09/06 12:20 PM Re: Where the hell is Belize?
bennyboy96 Offline
Is Belize the only country in Central America where Spanish is not the official language? I think it may be the only one in all of Latin American where English is the official language...Brazil's is Portuguese right? Any others?

#118896 - 03/09/06 01:44 PM Re: Where the hell is Belize?
T & A Offline
I was skimming thru a travel magazine yesterday (can't remember which one!) and they had Belize (and Mexico) under North American destinations and Guatemala under Central America.

#118897 - 03/09/06 01:52 PM Re: Where the hell is Belize?
CeTigges Offline
While I can't speak for all of Belize, I noticed that the people of AC, were the most diverse group of people I have ever met in my life. It really is the people of AC that make it so special. I know that you have this great reef, and sunshine, but for me at least, it was all about the people I met while there. You can see a mix of all races that call this little island home. From the Jamican guy that tried to sell me weed every friggin night, to the incredibly helpful hispanic gal at the hotel, to the very blonde lady that brought me my Bilikins at BCs. Just such a cool mix. I think the world could learn something from that. I guess it is kinda hard to put them in a catagory.

#118898 - 03/09/06 03:44 PM Re: Where the hell is Belize?
Xoe Offline
I too was delighted by the mix of people, in much the same way you express. It occurred to me that it would be a good "immersion therapy" experience for people (I can think of a few) who are stuck in a rut about stereotypes based on nationality, ethic background, or skin color.

#118899 - 03/11/06 12:01 AM Re: Where the hell is Belize?
Beachy Offline
Originally posted by bennyboy96:
Is Belize the only country in Central America where Spanish is not the official language? I think it may be the only one in all of Latin American where English is the official language...Brazil's is Portuguese right? Any others?
With a nod to Richard Price (who enlightened me recently) In Latin America, only Guyana and Belize speak english as an official language.
Casa Picasso celebrated three yearsthis May, thanks to all of you!
Chris and Jen

#118900 - 03/11/06 04:17 AM Re: Where the hell is Belize?
lacysisland Offline
When you said 20 years ago we heard mention of San Salvador, Nicaragia and the likes, we saw images of warfare, plain and to the point, Belize and Costa Rica was not in that mix. Most of the bad things had to do with illegal drugs and exportation to a country that had a policy against just that.Lives were lost. Not Cool!!WE have a better way of life now for our children, I HOPE..

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