The Central American Tourism Integration System, known by its Spanish acronym SITCA, held a meeting in San Pedro earlier today to discuss and review the development of tourism initiatives within the region. SITCA, an arm of the Central American Integration System, represents seven member states which collectively reported that upwards of eight million tourists have visited these countries since August. With the exception of Costa Rica and Guatemala, over fifty percent of all visitors are from North America. Despite a growth of four point four percent, compared to figures for the same period in 2011, it was acceded that there is still room for growth. Most importantly, crime remains the number one concern among SITCA’s member states.

Manuel Heredia, Minister of Tourism, Belize

Manuel Heredia

“Each destination shares with each other the different ways that they are approaching it. In Belize we have tried a variety of different things but sometimes you would find out that in the city it’s so huge. In the island periodically you will find that we have a lot of stealing and so forth. We tend to control it and that is the way it has been happening but together we try to share as much information as possible to see how best it can work in each other’s area, you know. But probably, anyone over here can give you more or less what they have done in their different destinations.”

Jorge Aldana

“Is there any regional approach in terms of [dealing with the issue?”

Manuel Heredia

“That is the way we share information, we share resources and try to see how best it can be done because it cannot be done with just Belize trying to do its part without Honduras. We have to share as much information and try to make sure that we can apply that to the different destinations and see how best we can come up with the best solution. But it’s not an easy task, I can tell you.”

Synthia Solomon

Synthia Solomon, Tourism Vice-Minister, Honduras

“Maybe just to add to what the minister is saying, the same as we have the Central American Tourism Council they also have the security area and they conduct a lot of different work together as well, as a region. Specifically in Honduras, for example, we have sort of the same situation where on the continent we have much more problems, periodically you’ll have an incident in the islands, for example. A couple weeks ago, our president, Porfilio Lobo Sosa, declared that it’s a priority for us, as a country, to work in securing all of our tourism destinations and the ministers of tourism and security and other involved had their first meeting last week together with all of the private sector and they are currently working on a strategy that they will apply to secure the corridor, starting from the Bay Islands all the way up to Tegucigalpa. So that’s what we’re doing and we feel that the citizens have to be actively involved in order for this to work for us.”

Nicaragua currently holds the pro-tem presidency of SICA in Tourism. The meeting held at Banyan Bay on Ambergris Caye, had representation from all Central American countries, including the Dominican Republic which held an observer status.

Channel 5