Guatemala counting on tourism to boost economy

Guatemala City, Apr 8 (EFE).- The Guatemalan Tourism Institute, or Inguat, will increase advertising the country as a destination for foreign visitors with the aim of boosting the economy.

The markets of the United States, Canada and Mexico, as well as El Salvador and Honduras, are the primary areas for promoting Guatemala as a vacation destination, Inguat director Pedro Duchez told reporters.

The tourism plan for 2013 includes strengthening different tourist sites and positioning the Central American country "online" since 95 percent of the travel decisions made - or booked - by prospective tourists are done via the Internet.

Convention tourism, cruise ship stops, adventure tourism, ecotourism and sports are some of the market segments Guatemala will push to attract foreigners.

To that can be added medical tourism because, given Guatemala's geographical position and the low cost of such services, the country one of the most attractive in Latin America in that area.

Guatemala's main attractions, however, continue to be the archaeological centers of the Maya culture, as well as the colonial city of Antigua and lovely Lake Atitlan.

The tourism industry, in the opinion of Economy Minister Sergio de la Torre, is one of the country's development pillars since it is the third-largest source of hard currency, behind exports and remittances from emigrants.

According to government statistics, tourism generated $1.42 billion for Guatemala last year, 5.1 percent more than in 2011.

For 2013, authorities estimate that tourism will provide as much as 2.5 percent more in earnings than last year.

This year, Inguat will allocate at least $4 million with the aim of strengthening the tourism promotional campaign.