The Secretariat of Central American Tourism Integration (SITCA), together with the tourism authorities of the seven Central American countries - Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama - have conducted a study on the evolution of the tourism sector in the region over the past twelve years and made a positive forecast of expected 6.1 per cent growth for this year based on the results.
The study shows that, in the period between 2000 and 2012, tourism to Central America has grown by 122.8 per cent from 4.23 million visitors in 2000 to 9.39 visitors in 2012, an annual increase of seven per cent on average.
The American continent is the main source of visitors to the region.
Domestic tourism from within the region accounts for 40 per cent of the total whereas North America brings between 35 per cent and 40 per cent of visitors.
Europe and South America represent ten per cent of the total.
Costa Rica and Guatemala are the countries that received the highest number of visitors, but it is Nicaragua and Panama the ones that have registered the biggest growth in the period covered by the study, moving from fifth and sixth position (in terms of the total number of visitors received) to fourth and third respectively.
The average spend by tourists has also grown considerably over the last twelve years, mainly thanks to an increase in the amount of products consumed, moving from an average spend per person of US$700 in 2000 to US$1,016 in 2012.
Based on the results of the study, it is expected that the number of visitors will increase by 6.1 per cent this year compared to last year, with an expected total of 9.96 million visitors.
According to this forecast, Costa Rica and Guatemala will be the two countries that will receive the highest number of visitors, with around two million each.
For 2013, the average spend per tourist is expected to reach US$1,016.63, compared to US$1,016.18 in 2012.
Tourism revenue is expected to be highest in Panama and lowest in Nicaragua.
The data revealed by SITCA shows that the tourism sector in Central America is becoming a main source of revenue for all seven countries and a true motor for the economic growth of the region.