Tourism Antigua Guatemala Review 2011

Guatemala Tourism Review 2011 

Tourism in Antigua Guatemala and Guatemala in general is suffering in 2011. Upon our arrival in Antigua in October of 2011 we noticed a quiet and more secluded Antigua.

The decline is Tourism or lack of Tourists in 2011 has been caused in part by rain. News reports indicated that the storms in 2011 were as bad if not worse then Tropical Storm Agatha in 2010. Last year we were in Lake Atitlan and experienced first hand the fury of Agatha as this tropical storm ripped across Guatemala, with mud slides and roads closed for days.

Tourism to Guatemala has more than doubled this decade, to 1.7 million visitors last year from 826,240 in 2000, according to government statistics. The country is attracting visitors from around the globe, including a growing number of Europeans. Last year, tourists spent $1.3 billion in the country.

In a country that offers 23 volcanoes, Mayan ruins, scenic lakes and black sand beaches, Antigua is considered a must-see on any tourist route. As such Antigua has an over supply of all forms of Tourism services. How many Tour Operators, Spanish Schools, Hostels, Hotels, Bars and Restaurants can be supported only by Tourism? That is what Antigua Guatemala has grown to rely on “Tourism”.

Antigua’s administration and that of the City has been repeatedly over the last few years threatening measures for the hours bars can operate:  there was the issue of the closing times and that was settled.  On Sunday the 13th of November the paper El Periodico published the proposed law to ban all alcohol sales in Antigua, with a 500 meter distance from all schools, churches and sporting areas to set the boundaries. This proposal was to include spanish schools, a broad stroke that makes no sense at all.

With the boom of tourism comes the boom of expats seeking the relaxed life style of Antigua. They come, open a bar or restaurant and think they will carve out a living from the wealth of tourism. Most lack the skills to manage and operate such facilities. In a season or two they quickly find that this is a hard life and lacking the skills quickly close the doors and move on. This continuous cycle impacts the long standing established business that have a small piece of their client base taken by these start ups. Antigua’s administration and that of the City has also proposed to resend all restaurant licenses prior to I believe 1997.

The problem Antigua is facing today is there are more service related business then there are tourists to support such services. On every corner of Antigua you will find Tour Operators, Spanish Schools and Hostels. Many have an on-line existence with good web sites promoting their service offering. Many have web sites never updated. One of the most famous Hotels in Antigua’s web site appears on the top of the first page of the search results. The site is broken, does not work.

Antigua tourism services relies heavily on Travel review in sites such as Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet as an example: last week only 4,600 page views related to Antigua Guatemala occurred on Trip Advisor. The Internet should be INGUAT’s first place to have a shared venue for Tourism service related businesses in Antigua and in Guatemala overall. The Real Estate folks in Antigua have figured out the web is their only source of sales leads. As any one of the Realtors in Antigua and they will tell you ALL the business they get comes from the Internet.

The problem of Tourism in Guatemala is all about marketing a product. That in part relies on INGUAT, the Government of Guatemala’s travel association lets say. Now, as a tourist if you have ever visited an INGUAT office you will see part of the problem. Yes you will find marketing materials about Guatemala’s tourism destination points.

INGUAT also develops marketing plans and engages service partners to participate in these plans. INGUAT needs to think farther then just another plan to sell Maya Ruins. Being from Canada no one has either herd of Guatemala or under stand why anyone would want to go to Guatemala that is the problem INGUAT needs to address.


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