Guatemalan president Otto Perez Molina has launched a new National Plan for Sustainable Tourism Development, an unprecedented initiative of huge importance for the tourism industry in the country.
At the launch of the programme, which covers the period from 2012-2022, Perez Molina said a new era of security, peace, development and dignity for Guatemala is about to commence.
Many took this as a reference to the Dawn of a New Age on December 21st 2012 predicted in the Mayans calendar.
“Today, four months after forming this new government, we are fulfilling one of the main components of our plan: to implement tourism as a state policy.
“Our aim is to position Guatemala as one of the best tourism destinations in the world and increase the number of visitors to our country, which will help generate jobs and revenue,” Perez Molina said.
The new plan includes the creation of a new Secretary of Tourism in the Government of Guatemala, as well as the modification of the current law that regulates the Guatemala Tourist Board (INGUAT).
Pedro Duchez, the current director of INGUAT, and future secretary of tourism, said: “We are involving many different parties in this change: local authorities, community leaders, the tourism industry, international organisations, the private sector, the media and of course the Government.
“We are all working for a common objective: to present a positive image of the country and tell the world that Guatemala is much more than what has been said in the past, and that we are ready to welcome visitors with open arms.”
At present, the volume of tourism business is equal or bigger than that from oil, food or cars exports.
Tourism has become one of the main pillars of international commerce and represents one of the biggest sources of income in many developing countries.
In Guatemala, it is the second largest source of income, bringing in US$1.3 billion in 2011 through the arrival of more than 1.8 million tourists, mainly from the regional market (El Salvador, Honduras, Southern Mexico and the US).