Environmental protection, gastronomy with ingredients from local producers or the preservation of the traditions of indigenous peoples are some of the pillars of sustainable tourism in the region.
London, August 4, 2023- Tourism in Central America and the Dominican Republic is aligned with indigenous economic development. The offer for visitors has, among its focus, the protection of the environment of each country, cuisine prepared with ingredients grown by local producers, and the preservation of the culture and traditions of indigenous peoples. As Carolina Briones, Secretary General of the Central American Tourism Promotion Agency (CATA), points out, “We want to promote tourism that directly benefits the people of our region. Tourism is a fundamental sector not only for governments or large companies, but also for small businesses or farmers, to give two examples.
For this reason, the countries of Central America and the Dominican Republic are promoting tourism that is in harmony with the environment. It is home to 12% of the world’s biodiversity, is the second most important bird watching area in the western hemisphere and is part of the second largest coral reef in the world. A unique tropical sanctuary, surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, it can be enjoyed by tourists with the utmost respect for nature and is pampered for future generations to inherit.
Lachua Lagoon, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala
In terms of gastronomic tourism, the region offers visitors a rich fusion of indigenous, African and Spanish cuisine, based on maize, an indigenous crop that forms part of the food base of the pre-Hispanic peoples of Mesoamerica who inhabited the region. In addition to maize, other products include yucca, black and red beans, peanuts, rice, chillies, avocado, cacao, pineapple, coconut, all grown by local producers, whose tourism is an important source of income.
Archaeology and ancestral heritage
Central America and the Dominican Republic are also home to various pre-Columbian lineages whose heritage has survived to the present day thanks to the zeal and care of the traditions and cultural expressions of their heirs, as well as the archaeological remains, which have been preserved untouched by time. The Lenca, Tolupanes, Maya Chortis, Payas, Tawahkas, Misquitos, Sumo, Rama, Ulwas, Marribio, Chorotega, Nagrandano, Nicarao, Sutiaba, Matagalpa, Chontal, Guatusos, Quitirrisí, Malekú, Bribri, Talamancas, Emberá, Nagate and the artistic Kuna ethnic groups are found throughout the length and breadth of the Central American isthmus.
Kuna woman embroidering a traditional mola.
Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras are also home to nearly six million descendants of the ancient Mayan culture. In Central America, therefore, travellers can learn first-hand about the route traced by this amazing culture, which, ahead of its time, left behind signs and vestiges of its splendour.
In this line, Guatemala marvels with the archaeological sites and parks El Mirador-Río Azul, Uaxactun, Tikal, Yaxha-Nahum-Naranjo, Quirigua and Takalik Abaj. Belize fascinates with its extraordinary and little-known millenary wealth of more than 1,400 Mayan sites, including Cerro Maya, Santa Rita, Altun Ha, Lamanai and Baton Creek. El Salvador captivates with the charm of the archaeological sites of San Andrés, Cara Sucia, Tazumal, Cihuatán, Joya de Cerén, Casa Blanca, and Santa Leticia; while stately and magical Honduras envelops with the imposing and indecipherable ruins of Copán, Rastrojón and El Puente, among others.
Local culture and traditions
In the Dominican Republic, Taino heritage is still very present throughout the country. The Taino-Arawak were the first inhabitants of the country who settled before the arrival of Christopher Columbus and the Spanish. Today, the spirit of the Taino is still very much alive in the national idiosyncrasy. From the legacy of this pre-Columbian culture, which can be discovered in different museums around the country, such as the Museum of the Dominican Man in Santo Domingo or the Altos de Chavón Regional Archaeological Museum, to gastronomy, such as the delicious cassava.
Traditional masks from Nicaragua
The bucolic and stately colonial towns, founded along the royal road that interconnected the native villages, also preserve Central America’s cultural heritage. In Panama, Panama La Vieja, founded in 1519, the old town, modern Panama City, Portobelo, the Anton Valley, whose population sits atop an extinct crater, and Chiriqui. In Nicaragua, León and ‘La Gran Sultana’, as the city of Granada is known, both founded in 1524.
Environment, gastronomy, culture, and traditions are some of the pillars of tourism in Central America an indigenous sustainable development.