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Cablegate: Nicaragua: Gon Reports Higher in Tourism Industry in 2009

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RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #0206/01 0391530
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 081529Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0660
INFO WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS MANAGUA 000206

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
STATE FOR WHA/CEN
USDOC FOR 4332/ITA/MAC/WH/MSIEGELMAN
3134/ITA/USFCS/OIO/WH/MKESHISHIAN/BARTHUR

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EINV ECON NU
SUBJECT: NICARAGUA: GON REPORTS HIGHER IN TOURISM INDUSTRY IN 2009

REF: 09 MANAGUA 753

SUMMARY

-------

1. (SBU) The Nicaraguan Tourism Institute (INTUR), an agency of the
Government of Nicaragua, reported that the tourism industry grew
8.3 percent in 2009 versus 2008. INTUR stated the reasons for the
sector's growth were the removal of visa requirements for Costa
Rica and an emphasis on attracting tourists as a region. Some
industry experts believe that INTUR's data, however, may not be
accurate because they do not distinguish among family visits,
business travel, missionary groups, and leisure travel. The
tourism industry is optimistic that 2010 will be better than 2009
because the global economy appears to be recovering.

STATISTICS SHOW GROWTH - BUT EXPERTS SKEPTICAL

--------------------------------------------- -

2. (SBU) On February 4, INTUR provided the Embassy its 2009 report
on the tourism industry. INTUR reported that tourism grew by 8.3
in 2009 versus 2008. The government counted 929,157 foreign
visitors to Nicaragua in 2009 (including family visits, business
travel, and leisure). INTUR reported $301.7 million in revenues
for the tourism sector, up from $246 million in 2008. The report
stated the reasons for the sector's growth in 2009 were the removal
of visa requirements for Costa Rica and coordinated efforts by
Central American countries to attract tourists as a region.

3. (SBU) Raul Calvet, president of a tourism services company,
noted that INTUR data are poorly prepared and do not distinguish
between family visits, business travel, and leisure travel
(tourism). He added that INTUR's failure to disaggregate these
types of visitors makes it difficult to identify industry trends.
For example, experts suggest that business travel declined in 2009;
the managers of three major hotels in Managua report that hotel
occupancy rates across the city were lower compared to 2008.

TOURISM INDUSTRY: 2009 PROVIDED A RAY OF HOPE

---------------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Despite some skepticism concerning INTUR's statistical
data, leisure travel appears to have increased. The National
Chamber of Tourism (CANATUR) reported that small and medium
businesses involved in the tourism sector saw a 6 percent increase
in tourist visits in 2009. The Nicaraguan Association of Small
Hotels issued a press release stating that sales for its members
improved by 20% during the last three months in 2009 versus the
same period in 2008. CANATUR added, however, that overall revenues
for these companies are down by over 10 percent when compared to
2008 because many tourists looked for bargains and were not willing
to spend as much money as they did in previous years. A majority
of leisure travelers are also staying in smaller, inexpensive
hotels for vacations of 5-7 days, instead of 10-14 day vacations,
to save money.

5. (SBU) Alfredo Gutierrez, former president of the Nicaraguan
Association of Tourism Operators (ANTUR) and owner of a small
tourism company, said that he and others in the tourism industry
have lowered their prices to attract customers, and these
adjustments have helped to maintain their businesses. In Granada
and San Juan del Sur -- the most popular tourist destinations in
Nicaragua -- hotels, bars, and restaurants reported that their
sales were better in 2009 versus 2008. The bigger and more
expensive hotels and resorts attracted slightly more customers in
2009 compared to 2008. Despite the improvement in the number of
tourists who visited Nicaragua in 2009, many tourism-related
businesses have had to either reduce their operating expenses or
dismiss staff in order to stay afloat.

OPTIMISM FOR 2010

-----------------

6. (SBU) Industry representatives are optimistic that 2010 will be
better than 2009. Hotel owners in Granada and San Juan del Sur
reported that occupancy rates in January were higher than the same
period in 2009. Entrepreneurs are encouraged that the global
economy appears to be recovering, particularly in the United
States, as U.S. citizens by far comprise the largest number of
tourists who vacation or visit Nicaragua. They also report that
the government has developed plans to improve electricity, water
supplies, and address the crucial need for better roads. They are
concerned, however, about the increase in crime in 2009 and its
implications for the industry.
CALLAHAN

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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