The number of foreign visitors to Central America increased by 10.8% in 2010 compared to the previous year, according to preliminary figures provided by the Tourism Ministries of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panamá. A total of 11,839,922 visitors arrived in Central America during 2010, 1,155,564 more than in 2009.
British visitors were up by 6.74%, with a total of 98,293 in 2010. Overall, 706,078 European tourists visited the region, mostly from Spain (140,636 visitors, up by 8.56%) and Germany (101,263 visitors, up by 3.5%). The number of French visitors increased by 3.81% to 91,266, and Italians were up by 8.47% to 79,915.
According to the Belize Tourist Board, 1,035,577 visitors arrived in 2010, 10% more than the previous year, 28,547 of them from Europe, with the British being the largest group (8,884 visitors, up by 4.12%). The ex-British colony is home to the second largest coral reef in the world, ancient Maya sites and ethnic groups such as the garifuna, amongst many other attractions.
The Costa Rica Tourist Board reported a total of 2,485,191 visitors, an increase of 8.6% on the previous year. From Europe, the Spanish and German markets were the largest in volume, with 48,492 and 44,539 visitors respectively, but the largest increase was in British visitors, up by 20%. Most popular destinations include the Tortuguero National Park and central Costa Rica, as well as Manuel Antonio National Park with its mix of beaches and jungle.
El Salvador received 1,604,358 visitors, according to the Tourism Ministry, 8.34% more than in 2009. The number of European visitors increased by 5.72%, with the Spanish market registering the biggest increase (5,843 visitors, up by 6%).
Guatemala continues to be a popular destination with 1,875,776 visitors in 2010, up by 5.57%. Of these, 170,821 were European visitors (up by 2.43%), the majority from Spain (27,788 visitors, 7.44% more than in 2009). The biggest increase, nearly 15%, was in Italian visitors.
The Honduras Tourist Board also reported an increase in visitors, including 90,512 European visitors, up by 2.92%. The Italian was the largest market, with 20,079 visitors.
The number of visitors to Nicaragua in 2010 was 1,071,660, an increase of 6% compared to 2009. The European market grew by 3% with 71,872 visitors, with Italy and France registering the largest increase (around 9%). New tourism products such as the Water and Coffee Trails have contributed to its popularity.
Panamá, which has a new non-stop flight from Spain since October, received 1,685,295 visitors, 7.83% more than the previous year. The number of Europeans increased by 11.86%, with Spain (up by 22% to 30,845 visitors) and Italy (up by 18% to 15,814 tourists) having the largest increase. Recent investment in projects such as the Panama Canal expansion and new hotels has contributed to this success.
The latest figures show that Central America is becoming an increasingly popular destination with a diverse cultural offering and exotic nature.