The cooperation agreement between CATA and Avianca was signed by CATA chairman and interim president Salomón Shamah and Avianca's Commercial Director Danilo Correa during the 85th regular board meeting of the Central American Tourism Council (CCT) held in Panama City and in the presence of ministers and senior tourism officials from Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and the Dominican Republic.
For the duration of one year, Avianca vows to assist CATA in jointly promoting Central America as a multiple tourist destination and in marketing the regional slogan of "Central America: so small, yet so big" to European and Asian markets. The agreement additionally includes promotion of domestic tourism in the Central American region with the support of both the public and private sector. Through this agreement, Avianca specifically commits to provide its support in promotional activities with travel agencies and media in Europe and to supply airfare towards this end, for wholesalers in the travel industry to go on familiarization trips and for tourism institutions to participate in promotional trade fairs or attend inter-agency coordination meetings, up to the amount of $500,000 dollars.
Among the important issues addressed in this board meeting, Minister Shamah presented the "Regional Manual of Good Practices in Tourism Security", the result of a coordinated effort between the Central American Tourism Integration Secretariat (SITCA) and the Democratic Security Unit of the Central American Integration System's General Secretariat (SG-SICA), with funding provided by the Spanish Fund-SICA (FES). This document will be used to guide training sessions on improving the efficiency with which national tourism authorities and the tourist police in the region provide tourist security services. By implementing the suggestions in this manual, both institutions will gain professionalism and greater prominence within the tourism sector, which is increasingly recognized for its significant contribution to the regional economy.
According to SITCA statistics, in 2012 tourist arrivals to Central America grew by 7.33% over the previous year, adding 605,000 more tourists to reach a total of 8.86 million visitors. Their spending also increased by 17.93% compared to 2011, thereby generating U.S. $9,605.5 million in foreign exchange for the region.
At a press conference held in conjunction with the CCT's 85th regular board meeting, the Central American Mobile Tourism Application was also introduced. Developed with funding by the World Trade Organization's (WTO) Sustainable Tourism-Eliminating Poverty program (ST-EP) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), this application is designed to promote businesses in the regional tourism industry by using smart phones and other portable electronic devices. It will serve as a very useful digital guidebook of the region for travelers who plan to visit and want to search for information, look at photographs of the major sights and cities, and browse listings to find lodging, restaurants, car rentals, and other tourist activities and services offered in the seven countries that constitute the Central American region. As of today, users of the world's most popular platforms (iOS, Android, Blackberry) will be able to download the application from these provider's online stores.
Photo: Benicio González