Opinion: Bread and Cheese Tourism in Nicaragua
Gerald Pavón | Jan 16, 2015
This is an opinion article by a Nicaraguan entrepreneur about country projection and tourism market in Nicaragua.
The trajectory of the tourism industry in Nicaragua appears to be positive, according to the Nicaraguan Tourism Institute (INTUR). The private sector seconds this opinion, and agrees that step-by-step, we are crisscrossing more and more of the country with tourist destinations. This is what all Nicaraguans want, because of the numerous benefits that result, and in particular because of the effects on much-needed economic development.
However, it is worrisome to me the emerging idea of "Turismo de Pan y Queso", or "Bread and Cheese Tourism" as I call it. Let me explain. INTUR's strategy shows a strong tendency toward shoestring tourists, with the result being a surge in "backpacker" tourists around the country. Let me be clear that it is not my intention to reject or take anything away from this low-cost market. No! On the contrary, I applaud such initiatives because, as Nicaragua is an emerging destination, it is a sound strategy to capture this natural market segment. However, this niche is still a sub-sector of a greater market; not all tourists want to pay the lowest price possible, but rather a price that is reflective of the quality (and competency) of the service provided. This is why we see diverse products offered in any mature market.
The key to unlocking this larger market rests in the hands of the individual actors and service providers, who need to better understand how to price their services. It would not be unreasonable to have a national slogan along the lines of "Destino Barato, No Regalado" ("Nicaragua: Affordable, Not Free"). It is necessary to focus on a strategy that is more organized and segmented, and above all focus it on competitive prices. Here in Nicaragua, there are strong human resources, with academic training, high efficiency and high quality. Being a poor country does not mean we are a not an educated country. To be sure, there are weaknesses in the current educational and tourism sectors, but as the saying goes "before you learn to walk you must learn to crawl."
We must re-think the strategy of segmentation in Nicaraguan tourism, and widen it to attract tourists that spend at higher levels. We should not self-discriminate toward lower competence, or putting prices on our services that are damaging to the industry. We must understand that quality and professionalism do exist, and we must understand how to value and charge for them properly. It is clear that we are a country with a weak economy and associated low costs, but we must remember that many of our expenses are set on the global free market. Therefore, we pay the same costs for many goods as rich countries do; gasoline prices – at last in decline – are a prime example.
It is undeniable that, as a former marketing professor in Austria one said: "There is business for profits or no business at all."
Gerald Pavón is a Nicaraguan entrepreneur working in the tourism industry, with a degree in Tourism Management from UNAN-Leon, and certified in Tourism Management in Klessheim, Austria. He is the CEO and founder of Eco-Camp Expedition.
Translated from Spanish by:
_Rob Youngs. Master's of Environmental Management Candidate 2015 Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies._