The BBC recognized Guatemala as: “The Best Cultural Destination in the World”. With more Maya ruins than its other neighboring countries and more places for ecotourism than Costa Rica. Francis Ford Coppola believes in Guatemala’s potential and it the owner of a prestigious ecotourism hotel in this country.
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), 2005
Tourism provides a huge potential for investment in this sector, becoming the main entry of the commercial balance, surpassing coffee, sugar, cardamom and other exports.
Given the importance of the tourism sector as an issue of national priority and as part of the National Competitiveness Strategy and 2004-2008 Government Plan, a 2012-2022 National Policy for the Development of Sustainable Tourism was created and intends to prioritize tourism as the country’s development focus.
For this reason, the main objective of Invest in Guatemala and entities supporting the sector, is to strongly encourage the structuring, marketing and information on tourist products and destinations by promoting the country.
Guatemala’s privileged geographic position, political stability, natural and cultural richness and its climate of “eternal spring” are competitive advantages that make the country an attractive travel destination. Unlike the other Central American countries, Guatemala provides a comprehensive supply and has a large variety of high quality tourism segments, such as:
• Colonial History and Legacy
• Indigenous culture and communities
• Ecotourism and adventure
• Beaches on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts
The largest and greatest hotels are located in the capital city, home to international hotels such as Marriot, Westin Camino Real, Intercontinental, Clarion Suites, Radisson, Holiday Inn and Quinta Real, among others.
Guatemala’s lodging supply had a nominal growth in the last five years, with an average annual rate of 3.8% percent, equal to 20,840 rooms. The existing hotels’ supply does not satisfy the tourism demand, which has increased 4.5 times more than the available lodging capacity in the same period of time.
Considering tourism demand, the existing lodging capacity -20,840 rooms-, and the diversity of tourism products and destinations that Guatemala offers; which extend the visitors’ stay to an average of 7 days, It is clear that there is a great opportunity to invest in tourism development!
Main Areas for Tourism Development:
- Antigua Guatemala is the country’s Main tourism destination
- Antigua, declared “World Heritage” by UNESCO (1979), is the most outstanding and best preserved Colonial City in all Spanish America
- The hotel supply in this city is composed mainly by small boutique hotels and the 1,230 rooms available, are not enough to satisfy tourism demand
- Antigua’s favorable weather not only allows outdoor activities and sports as Golf, horseback riding, and others, but also makes it attractive for the retirement communities market
- 56% of Guatemala’s visitors look for cultural & entertainment activities, and Antigua is suitable for these activities
- Antigua has become a destination with luxury hotels and services, providing an added value to the industry
- Antigua and its outskirts is great for mixed–use project development, boutique hotels and spas
PETEN, MAYAN WORLD
- Tikal National Park was declared “World Heritage” by UNESCO (1979) and this is the second tourist site most visited in Guatemala, along with Lake Atitlan
- El Mirador, cradle of the Maya Civilization is the most impressive archeological site and project which “cultural value, vision and scope elevates Guatemala to a prominent position among tourist destinations in the world”
- Lack of hotel supply: Petén’s lodging capacity is 1,800 rooms, from which less than 10% offer a five star quality
- The diverse Peten area and it’s attractiveness to Mayan culture and its rainforests respond to the demand of 58% of the tourists, which visit the country in search of culture, nature, adventure and sports
- The Petén rainforest's Mirador Basin is the last tract of virgin rainforest remaining in Central America
- Lake Petén Itzá shoreline, El Remate, Jocompiche, Pichain, Quexil and Yaxhá: These areas and all Petén are suitable for mixed-use projects and small & exclusive hotels
CARIBBEAN COAST: IZABAL
- Izabal is the third tourism destination more visited of the country
- The number of incoming cruise ships in the area has tripled since 2004
- Lack of hotel development: 57 hotels with a total number of 1,190 rooms, from which the majority falls in the three stars category
- Amatique Bay, Río Dulce, and Izabal Lake, due to its geographic location are protected from hurricanes (yachts & sailboats best hide!)
- Marinas in the US have become expensive and scarce
- Inexpensive waterfront land available (Lake, River & Sea)
- Short distance from Quirigua, declared “World Heritage” by UNESCO (1981), Tikal National Park (Petén), Belize Keys & other Caribbean Islands
- Izabal Lake, Livingston and Punta Palma, are great areas for resort hotels, mixed-use projects and all type of hotels
- Río Dulce is suitable for exclusive& small hotels and private residents
- The Lake of Atitlan is the second tourism site most visited in the country, along with Tikal
- Living Maya culture & traditions, make Atitlan one of the main cultural destinies in the country
- The Natural landscapes of the Lake combined with local ethnicity, attract 58% of the incoming tourists seeking for culture and adventure
- Lack of hotel development: 1,100 rooms is the total lodging capacity in Atitlan and most fall in the three stars category
- Lack of Marinas in the Lake, and necessary even for nationals
- Lake Atitlan’s surroundings and shorelines, are suitable for exclusive hotels, mixed-use projects and resort hotels
- The number of incoming cruises has doubled in four years (2004-08)
- Guatemala’s Pacific Coast is responsible of more than 85% of local (Guatemalans) tourism
- Lack of hotel development: A total of 990 hotel rooms, which fall mostly in the three stars category
- One of the best sport fishing destinations in the world!
- Record catch of 1,663 fishes in 4 days, 660 only in 1 day
- Bill fishing tournaments as ILTTA, Presidential Challenge, etc.
- In 2006, US $ 50 mm were generated only from this activity
- Highest year-round concentration of billfish: sailfish, black & blue marlin, yellow tuna, etc
- Regulations that protect species
- Inexpensive waterfront land available
- Natural & artificial canals for boat access to the Pacific Ocean
Lack of marinas
- Guatemala City is still the main door for all its visitors, receiving more than 1.6 million tourists
- The total lodging capacity is 4,100 rooms and has become insufficient with the increasing number of visitors to the capital city
- Guatemala City attracts a high number of business travelers, which represent 21% of its total visitors and whose visit purposes are business & conferences
- Guatemala City is the most cosmopolitan and contemporary of all Central America. This is very favorable for businesses and conventions.
For this reason, many multinational firms establish its headquarters for the Latin and/or Central American region in Guatemala
- Guatemala has been host to international and renowned conference such as the International Olympic Committee 2007, BID Convention 2007, and much more
- Guatemala offers high quality medical services with international standards and to very affordable costs; presenting a great opportunity to further increase the current health tourists’ demand
- Medical services in the country are relatively low when compared to those of the United States, which is Guatemala’s second largest tourism and health tourism market.
- There is an enormous potential in developing this niche of the tourism industry, and it is a great complement for the baby-boomers’ market
In addition to the country's foreign investment promotion agency, "Invest in Guatemala", the tourism sector counts on support from the following organizations:
- The Guatemalan Tourism Institute (INGUAT)
A government institution in charge of promoting the development of the tourist industry in the country. Among its activities are the efficient investigation, planning, promotion, protection, coordination and control of tourism.
- The Chamber of Tourism (CAMTUR)
A civil , non-profit entity dedicated to the formation and training of human resources for tourism; organizing and furthering promotional activities; providing information on the industry and its affiliates; providing a network of national and international contacts; and representing the private tourism sector in national and foreign forums.
- Foundation of the Development of Guatemala (FUNDESA)
A non-profit entity conformed by business men. Its purpose is to generate and implement programs and projects. It has also created the Tourism Business Center (CETS) network that seeks to strengthen tourism as a sustainable economic and social development platform for Guatemala. These offices operate as business centers for Small and Medium-size Tourism Businesses (PYMES) and offer human resource training.
- Sustainable Tourism Commission (COMITURS)
A commission established within the Guatemalan Non Traditional Products Exporters' Association (AGEXPRONT) with the involvement of hotel entrepreneurs, Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) managing tourism projects, the protected areas and reserve administrators, tourism operators, specialized consultants and others. It is created to facilitate the development of non traditional, sustainable tourism based on the needs of the entrepreneur and similar groups. The Commission is additionally in charge of co-managing the national and international cooperation funds directing them towards tourism business projects.