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Tourism After a Crisis

Turismo después de una crisis
San Juan del Sur - Semana Santa 2018
“Travel and tourism is the world’s largest industry, and always rebounds”

By Kelvin Marshall – Del Sur News

The Tourism Industry Worldwide

According to a United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) press release entitled; 2017 International Tourism Results: The Highest in Seven Years, international tourist arrivals in 2017 grew by a remarkable 7% and the momentum is expected to continue in 2018 at a rate of 4%-5%. Based on data reported by destinations around the world, it is estimated that international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) worldwide increased 7% in 2017, the strongest results in seven years and well above the sustained and consistent trend of 4% or higher growth since 2010. The Americas (+3%) welcomed 207 million international tourist arrivals in 2017, with most destinations enjoying positive results such as Central America +4%.

How is Tourism Affected by Crisis or Disaster?

Around the world, the short term impact of a crisis or disaster is usually felt very quickly in relation to accommodation cancelations. The longer term effects on traveler confidence surrounding a particular area can vary a lot, depending on the cause of the incident.

According to Rochelle Turner, Director of Research at the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC);

“On average, it takes approximately 13 months for an area to recover from a terrorist attack, 21 months from disease, 24 months from an environmental disaster and 27 months from political unrest.”


Although Nicaragua may be a long way from an end to this latest chapter of political unrest; it has been very much a national issue and not aimed at tourists, visitors or expats.

Another positive point is the growth in tourism that Nicaragua previously enjoyed. Nicaragua was on a roll and was the “darling” of the region, receiving press coverage from some of the most prestigious newspaper travel sections and travel magazines.

Whereas that might make the pain feel worse right now, on a positive note it also shows that Nicaragua had a strong and growing client base with many of those clients being repeat customers. This gives the tourism industry a start point and a beacon to move towards

In a Condé Nast Traveler interview, Rochelle Turner (WTTC) said; “Travel and tourism is a very resilient sector, one of the reactions we see from travelers is that they change destinations, but they don’t stop traveling as a whole.”

This could mean that they will visit another country in the region or it could mean (as we have experienced already in Nicaragua) they will change their destination within Nicaragua and will travel to the safer and more secure areas. Social media was a big part of putting Nicaragua on the tourist map the first time and has already proven invaluable to travelers who have picked their way through Nicaragua during these last 2 months of so. Again, something tourist businesses can work with.

If they do change their destination country, for example to Costa Rica or Panama, they remain in the region and will eventually look to Nicaragua as first time or repeat visitors.

An interesting list by Yahoo Travel was published on the PRONicaragua (Nicaragua’s Investment Promotion Agency) web site in November 2014. It gives ten reasons to visit Nicaragua. Surprisingly, safety and security was number ten. So, although obviously important, it wasn’t as important as some of the other features of the country such as; surfing, affordability, volcanoes and its natural beauty.

Douglas Quinby, vice president of research at Phocuswright, a global travel market research company, says that despite the physical impact of an attack on a destination and the psychological effect on travelers, destinations usually don’t stay down for long. “Travel and tourism is the world’s largest industry, and always rebounds,” says Quinby.

In closing, whereas the current political unrest took most of the tourism industry by surprise as far as having disaster or risk management plans ready, it may not be too early to start planning for tourism after the crisis is over and get a head start on the rebound.


  1. Nice try… but pure nonsense. Nicaragua is toast for more than 27 months. 15 years of good will are lost. Political stability must come before any real tourist recovery. The surfers and backpackers will always come. They always have.. with no money. AND…where are the missionaries? Not here.. gone to other more safe conversions. The T-shirt mission crowd is the barometer. When they come back… all is good. This will be a challenge…. peace

  2. Nonsense was the wrong word. Sorry… Tourism dollars have gone to 10% in 60 days. Today the USA is publishing that it is unsafe to go out after dark. The reputation is lost and it took 20 years to identify Nicaragua as safe and stable. No mas. I am heading there tomorrow and will work with others on the challenge. Nicaragua is special, but we are close to square one in tourism and off shore investment. Thats the reality and, maybe, the opportunity. Thanks for the forum….

  3. Thanks, Kelvin, for an interesting and optimistic article. As owners of a small luxury boutique hotel in San Juan del Sur we certainly share the optimism… having already seen a rebound in our rental accommodations. The two months following the initial drama of May-June saw most reservations cancel. Since then we have seen slow but steady improvement and last week our little three bedroom place was FULL! So… actual results would indicate that your commentary is certainly not nonsense, while acknowledging that it surely will take some time before things return to the heady days of 88% occupancy experienced before the drama unfolded… (and that’s just fine with us!)


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