El Salvador’s Minister of Tourism wants you. José Napoleon Duarte Durán told an international press conference in San Salvador Friday that the country’s greatest asset beyond its variety of attractions from city, surf, lakes and picturesque volcanoes are its people.
“The difference is the people,” the minister said. The tourism boss added that all off of the country’s famed attractions, tourists will encounter a very welcoming people who will go out of their way to make visitors feel at home. The Minister later added that Salvadorans are well aware of the misconception some have that the country is unsafe and go out of their way to more than counter that negativity with hospitality.
Under the tourism minister’s leadership, the country is investing millions in the country’s tourism infrastructure including 400 tourism police officers who are trained not only in preventing crime, but providing assistance to travelers in need of first aid or other critical services. In addition, El Salvador maintains six tourism offices outside the country and 52 tourism centers to help visitors in the country.
The North American market represents 36.3% of annual international arrivals to El Salvador. According to El Salvador Ministry of Tourism statistics for 2014, more than 488,547 travelers came from North America last year. International arrivals to El Salvador have been steadily growing since 2009. El Salvador’s Ministry of Tourism, will invest $25 million over the next five years for the development of coastal areas of El Salvador.
The Minister spoke to reporters from San Salvador’s upscale Real Intercontinental San Salvador hotel where his department hosted the third annual El Salvador Travel Market trade show bringing together more than 30 local tour operators, hotels and other travel providers with about 40 travel agents and international tour operators from around the world. Exhibitors included the El Salvador-based Aviana Airlines, which brings visitors to El Salvador direct from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, Washington, DC, Chicago, New York and Toronto.
The tourism minister reiterated a theme that was echoed by the country’s travel providers: “Everything is close,” he said, noting that just 20 minutes from San Salvador, visitors can find themselves on the edge of a dormant volcano and just a 30 minute drive to the sea. Further out, visitors can take in the country’s coffee plantations, which are found at the cooler, higher elevations. Tourists can also easily drive to the country’s second-largest city, Santa Ana, known for its well preserved historical buildings. Some have nicknamed El Salvador as the half-hour country because of the wide variety of sights within a 30-minute drive.
El Salvador’s civil war, which ended in a peace agreement in 1992, put an abrupt stop in what had been a thriving tourism industry. Costa Rica captured much of that business. But El Salvador is hoping to recapture some of that business. But don’t count on a tourism battle between the two any time soon. The tourism minister made it clear when speaking before a pre-conference dinner Thursday night that El Salvador is united with the other Central American countries in keeping that part of the world at the top of everyone’s list for the best places to visit.
El Salvador is on track regain its pre-war glory days as the place to be in Central America. It is significantly less expensive than Costa Rica with an even closer connection to the US. El Salvador and Ecador are among the only two countries in the world that use the dollar the official currency, so there is no hassle with exchanging money or doing the exchange calculations in your head to figure out how much something is really going to cost you.
More information on travel to El Salvador can be found on the country’s official Web site.