Cruising is on the up in Central America and is expected to continue to grow this year.
A total of 2,394,000 cruise passengers arrived during last season (October 2012 to May 2013); an increase of 15 per cent compared to the previous year, according to data released by the Secretariat of Central America Tourism Integration.
The figures were releases at the FCCA Central America Cruise Conference, held recently in La Antigua, Guatemala.
Honduras registered the biggest increase in cruise arrivals to the ports of Roatan and Mahogany Bay, with a total of 787,000 cruise passengers on board 315 cruise ships, accounting for 33 per cent of the total number of cruise passengers in the region.
According to Business Research & Economic Advisors, Belize is also one of the main cruise destinations in the region because of its strategic position in the Caribbean and its lush and exotic countryside.
Belize received 728,000 cruise passengers on 315 cruise ships last season.
Panamá is the third largest cruise destination in the region with a total of 277 cruise ships docking at its ports last season, bringing around 429,000 passengers.
Costa Rica is also a traditional cruise destination with ports on both its Caribbean and Pacific coasts.
A total of 269 cruise ships stopped there during the 2012-13 season, carrying 334,000 passengers.
Puerto Limon was the most popular cruise port.
Guatemala is investing in improving its ports, roads and airports infrastructure and is committed to developing its cruise sector.
According to SITCA, 75,000 cruise passengers visited Guatemala last season, of which 70 per cent were repeat visitors.
While the cruise market is not as big at the moment in Nicaragua, the Nicaragua Tourist Board is hoping to change that and has signed an agreement with the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association to bring more cruise ships to its ports.
The Tourist Board of El Salvador is also working hard to position the country as a cruise destination and bring more cruise passenger.
To that effect, it has signed new agreements in the past few weeks with several cruise companies including Holland America Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Saga, Princess Cruises and Pullmantur.
The cruise industry has continued to grow despite the economic crisis and the Central American region aims to position itself as one of the top cruise destinations in the world.