This weekend sees the opening of the 11th Central America Travel Market, this year held in San Salvador.
The event welcomes more than 100 European wholesalers to the destination to discuss Central American travel opportunities for the coming year.
Held at the International Centre of Fairs & Conventions in the capital San Salvador, the two day event was this year opened by El Salvador’s minister of tourism José Napoleón Duarte Durán with a lively party at the Museo de Arte de El Salvador.
Duarte spoke of working as “a stronger, more united Central America” in his opening speech.
The president of the Salvadoran Chamber of Tourism, Lic Beatriz de Contreras, echoed this message.
She told delegates: “We seek to strengthen the bonds between companies and offer integrated, innovative, and quality products that combine two or more countries of Central America.”
Some 78 European tourism professionals were invited on pre- and post-fair familiarisation tours.
They were joined by 26 members of the international press, which included a group of bloggers.
The first part of the trips take in El Salvador’s greatest treasures, natural wealth, and cultural legacy, explained Duarte.
After the fair, the tour operators will split into smaller groups and visit one of the other Central American countries to establish a multi-destination portfolio for their companies.
The annual Central America Travel Market is organised by the national tourism authorities of Central America, the Federation of Central American Tourism Chambers, and the Tourism Promotion Agency of Central America.
The event aims to promote the Central American brand at an international level.
Conference meetings, individual business meetings, and briefings are facilitated at the conference with the aim of promoting multi-destination travel within Central America.
Some 98 exhibitors from across Central America are participating in this year’s Central America Travel Market.
Ralph Capeling, who along with his wife, runs a tour operator Splash Dive Centre and works across the whole of Belize, is one of them.
Capeling confirmed that a lot of the European tourists tend to visit Belize from another Central American country or Mexico, in keeping with CATA’s multi-destination campaign.
He added: “We are really pleased with the way our meetings have gone.
“We have been having a lot of interest from Spanish travel agents, which would be a new market for us.
“As we are an English-speaking country, a lot of our European visitors come from UK, Germany and the Netherlands.”
Juan Rivera of Guatemalan K’uk Tours is participating in the fair for the first time this year.
He told Breaking Travel News: “It’s going really well.
“I’ve been able to meet buyers from across Europe, which is great, as currently most of our business comes from France but we are looking to expand, especially into UK and Italian markets.”
Rivera has had approximately 40 meetings by Sunday lunchtime at the Central America Travel Market.
Sustainable growth is important in the sector.
El Salvador has seen a 5.4 per cent increase on 2015, with 1.6 million recorded in 2016, Durant explained.
This growth is found across the whole of the tourism sector in Central America, Hattie Connor, the co-ordinator of European and Central American markets for the Institute of Tourism Honduras, added.
She explained: “There has been an in increase in MICE travel recently.
“Whereas traditionally our main MICE markets are Central American countries, we are now starting to see more international conferences happening in Honduras.”
Conner continued: “The UK leisure market is also expanding.
“Many Brits feel very at home on our Bay Islands, as they used to belong to the British.
“Participation in Central America Travel Market as well as larger European travel shows like ITB and World Travel Market, as well as smaller specialist shows such as the Birdfair in Rutland, UK, help to grow our market.”
This is the second time El Salvador has hosted Central America Travel Market, which has grown to reflect the expanding tourism sector in Central America.
Some 21.4 million visitors were welcomed to the region in 2016.
Guatemala will host the fair in 2019 and hopes to see 100 delegates, 80 wholesalers, and the national and international press, according to Juan Pablo Nieto Cotera, the subdirector general de Inguat for Guatemala.
Find out more about visiting the region here.