Despite its turbulent past and the preconceived notions of many outsiders, Nicaragua has experienced a steady increase in tourism over the last few years. Not only are more people visiting the country, but they are staying longer and spending more. Average stays have risen from 7.7 days in 2012 to 10.1 days in 2016. The effects of this can easily be seen in the rise of tourist spending from $40.2 per day in 2013 to $43.2 per day in 2016. Overall, this has led to an increase of tourists per annum from just over 1 million in 2011 to 1.5 million in 2015, with more expected in 2016. There are three main factors for this steady increase.
Prices and Development of Touristic Opportunities
The first factor is that many countries have recovered significantly from recent recession and their citizens are now more willing to take longer trips. This can be seen through the average increase of travelers from Europe and North America to Central America. The fact that Nicaragua is still one of the cheapest countries in Latin America comes into play as well. Though many countries have recovered a fair share from the recession, many people still don’t want to spend an extravagant amount of money. In Nicaragua, travelers find a fair compromise between lush natural beauty, vibrant touristic options, and a price that is comfortable for them.
These facts, along with the genuine and significant measures that Nicaraguan companies have taken with their government to improve all sectors of the country, can be witnessed in the growth of the tourism industry in regions outside of the popular destinations of León and Granada. One of Nicaragua’s greatest economic victories has been the development of areas such as Matagalpa, San Juan del Sur, and Estelí. Tourists have been looking to these peaceful areas with increased interest, in attempts to escape the hubbub of metropolitan life and slip into nature reserves or traditional Nicaraguan cities.
The Regional Market for Tourism, and Safety
The second factor is the current Central and South American market. Nicaragua is still the safest country in all of Central America, and it has lower violent crime rates than the U.S. and much of South America. In a time of high violence and terrorism, many people find Nicaragua to be a vibrant and peaceful haven far removed from the turbulence of the rest of the world. Also, the American and European markets are more expensive than the Nicaraguan market many times over. Tourists who are looking to pay less and get more can easily find this in Nicaragua.
The third factor is more specific, yet equally as important. Medical tourism has become a rather large and successful sector in Nicaragua. Many foreigners come to Nicaragua to receive state-of-the-art medical care that includes dentistry, surgery, etc. This, along with real estate sales, has been one of the largest contributors to the increase in tourist spending in Nicaragua. Several hospitals, especially Vivian Pellas, have medical tourism units that are on par or better than hospitals in North America. Many have found it a less expensive and more pleasant experience to come to Nicaragua for medical procedures than to remain in their home countries.
Experts predict that tourism will continue to increase throughout the year, along with further development in infrastructure within Nicaragua. Through the first trimester of 2016, predictions seem to be holding true as the number of tourists, the length of their stay, and how much money they are spending continues to increase. It seems that Nicaragua has efficiently stuck to the course of removing the dated prejudices of instability and crime that have haunted their economy for decades.