Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Central America looking to boost ties with region

Having rich, historic family and commercial ties with the Caribbean, Central America is looking to strengthen it relationship with this region in the area of tourism.

Speaking to The Grenada Advocate recently, Anasha Campbell, a representative of the Central American Tourism Integration Secretariat, who happens to be Nicaraguan by birth and speaks English as her mother language, says that many are still unaware of the rich heritage and similarities which exist between the Caribbean and the eastern coast of Central America.

Anasha Campbell.
“The Caribbean Coast of Central America has Afro-descendant communities that speak English as their mother language. Really, the history of Central America is divided in two – the pacific side that was colonised by the Spanish, and the Caribbean side that had a historic British protectorate, back from what was British Honduras that included Belize, Honduras and the Mosquito Coast which stretches from Honduras to Nicaragua,” Campbell explained. She added that apart from family ties, there were also strong commercial ties between these countries and countries such as Jamaica, Cayman Islands and as far south as Trinidad and Tobago.

She pointed out that it was only within the last five years that there had been a greater and deliberate effort to get more persons coming to explore the western side of the Caribbean Sea, so that people could know that Central America also shared in that culture.

Campbell noted that the Central American Tourism Integration Secretariat was currently doing considerable work with the Association of Caribbean States and the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, which included a joint programme and plan of action that facilitated an exchange of tourism-related experiences between the two sub regions. That entity also forms part of the recently created Sustainable Destinations Alliance for the Americas, a partnership aimed at promoting and building a more sustainable tourism product in a region considered the most dependent on tourism for its economic survival.

She also spoke on initiatives within her sub region to promote the Caribbean way of life therein, remarking: “We are also looking to broaden our collaborative efforts within the region and are exploring right now an initiative of having a Caribbean [touristic] route of Central America.

“We have other routes like Colonial Cities of Granada and Leon [our] volcanos, Patrimonio de la Huminidad... but we don’t have a Caribbean route in which you can offer tourists from different countries to visit Roatán [the largest of Honduras Bay islands], San Pedro in Belize, Corn Island in Nicaragua or Bocas del Toro in Panama... all of these are Caribbean destinations within Central America.”

Campbell pointed to shared challenges facing tourism in the two sub-regions, a major one being that of transportation. She said the high costs associated with air-transport and a lack of general connectivity continued to be a hindrance not only within Central America, but also to integrating it with the Caribbean.

“Within Central America the fares for a ticket from one country to the next are ridiculous, it’s like paying for a ticket from Central to North America or even to Europe. So you lose competitiveness,” she lamented.

She added that maritime trade had its own set of challenges and improvements needed to be made in this area to regain some of the commercial activity lost when the region moved out from under British protection. (RA)

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