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Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr. Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation and Pro-tem President of SICA (Central American Integration System) was the host for the 18th meeting of the Central American Tourism Council which was held at San Pedro Ambergris Caye on Thursday, September 16 through September 18.

A delegation of representatives from the eight Central American countries including Belize were present on Friday, September 17, to discuss ways in which the tourism product can be supported and marketed among member countries.

Hon. Manuel Heredia commenced by stating that despite the economic recession over the last years, there was much tourism activity within the Central American region. “In 2010 tourism grew by a little over four percent with an estimated eight thousand US dollars,” commented Mr. Heredia. “We must say that 7.64 million tourists visited the region in 2010 with a nightly spending of US 97.6 and in a stay of about 8.8 days per trip. This gives us approximately about 50 to 60 percent hotel occupancy.”

Heredia stated that the figures give a positive outlook for the future, of course given the necessary improvements which the CCT (Consejo Centroamericano de Turismo) hopes to start with and inter-regional campaign in tourism within the region.

“We are now planning to work harder to be able to sell ourselves as a region,” commented Nelly Jerez, Minister of Tourism of Honduras. “We think that each one of us in our country has a lot to give to the world but we must work in a better way so that we can show this effort to the whole world. Show what Central America really means. Not only what we have, the different destinations but also what our people mean, the ability of our people, the friendship of our people is found nowhere else but in Central America.”

Another topic above the list was Security; the entire region is already taking measures on making travel safer for tourists. Minister Heredia stated that they were designing a regional plan to work together with the police academies, tourism police and ministries of tourism and the project will be financed through funds from Spain and SICA.

Nelly Jerez, of Honduras echoed the importance of having proper security for tourists and the communities on a whole. “No one will go to our country if we do not give the security that they need,” commented Mrs. Jerez. “We can have the best beaches; we can have the best hotels or the best restaurants or anything that has to do with tourism. If we do not provide good security tourists will not come here to our countries.”

The delegation was in Belize on a three-day working visit in which they also discussed several other regional issues including climate change. SICA’s aim is to realize the incorporation of Central American countries in order to become a region of peace, freedom, democracy and development.

Member countries are also looking forward to the Katan Fair in Antigua Guatemala which will be held from 18th to the 20th of October and will see the participation of 150 local travel agents, about fifty international travel agents and another fifteen regional agents.

The SICA delegations included Sarah Sanchez – representing Mr. Salomon Shamah – Minister of Tourism of Panama, Myra Salinas - representing Mr. Mario Salinas Pasos - Minister of Tourism of Nicaragua, Mr. Napolian Duarte Minster of Tourism of El Salvador, Alan Flores representing Carlos Ricardo Benavides – Minister of Tourism of Costa Rica, Mrs. Nelly Jerez – Minister of Tourism of Honduras, Mr. Roberto Robles of Guatemala, Mr. Luis Simo Vice Minister of Tourism of Dominican Republic and Hon. Manuel Heredia Minister of Tourism, Culture and Civil aviation of Belize.

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