Category Archives: Tourism

El Salvador tourism: better than it used to be, but still not where it needs to be

From Travel Pulse
The Government of El Salvador, through the Ministry of Tourism, will invest $25 million over the next five years for the development of the marine coastal area of El Salvador from funds provided by a loan of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) that was ratified yesterday by the Legislative Assembly with 56 votes.
This project marks an important precedent for tourism in El Salvador. It is the first time the Legislative Assembly has approved a million-dollar loan to give a decisive impetus to the development of the industry in El Salvador, which has shown steady growth since 2009.
Only in 2014, tourism generated 50,000 formal jobs and an income to the country of more than $1,100 million. In addition, there was a reported investment in tourism (hotels, restaurants, tourist services, etc.) of more than $125 million.
The Minister of Tourism, José Napoleón Duarte Durán, said that the Tourism Development Program of the Marine Coastal Strip seeks to raise awareness to some of the tourist attractions El Salvador has such as El Puerto de La Libertad and Jiquilisco Bay in Usulután.
Eighteen years ago when I lived here, the tourist sector was non-existent. You had beaches with few hotels. That was fine as my friend Salvador and I slept in a semi-destruido building on the beach for a few days and then Pablo and I spent a few days living in hammocks on Isla Conejo. We camped out on the shore over the Easter Weekend. It was great but I can't imagine that our "vacations" added much to the economy.

I haven't been back to the beach here since then but it is one area where it appears that El Salvador has the opportunity for growth and to make a difference in Salvadorans' lives. While there is some external tourism (surfing) on the coast, much of it will most likely come from Salvadorans heading to the beach for the weekend and Salvadoran Americans who want to go to the beach when they return to visit family. When I asked whether Salvadorans still planned to head to Antigua and Guatemala for the August holidays, I was told not as many as there used to be. The Salvadoran economy is still struggling so people will stay closer to home. While I support some development of the coast, one should remain very concerned about over-development and the destruction of the maritime ecosystem.

The Moon travel book that I have is very interesting. I've mostly skimmed it but I was impressed with the number of tourist attractions listed in the text that I did not know about and that I wished I knew about in 1997. At that time, there was the beach, the museum in Perquin, Joya de Ceren, some ruins in Santa Ana (I believe), and Lago Coatepeque. Probably Suchitoto but I don't remember hearing about the town back then.

Even with the improvements, El Salvador still has some catching up to do compared to its neighbors. One area where the country can definitely improve is with regards to the staff at the airport. There were three or four people working migration on Saturday night at 8pm. It took about an hour for them to process the foreigners from our plane. I thought that was bad, but not unbearably so. But none of us knew how to get our luggage (and no one told us) because the authorities just say to head left without letting us know that at some point we will go around and end up back on the right where our luggage is. Again, not a big deal.

However, I then spoke to someone this afternoon who said that I was lucky. There are a number of travelers, especially surfers, who come in on the later flight. At 1am or so in the morning, there is often one migration officer working. You are lucky to get through migration and customs in two hours.

Exiting the parking lot was another difficulty to overcome. Too many monster speed bumps and some slow workers manning the gates to pay.

Better than it used to be, but still not where it needs to be.