Cayos Cochinos is a key area in the Mesoamerican Reef System. It is located 30 km from La Ceiba. Photo: Juan Bendeck. (PRNewsFoto/CANATURH)
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- For those who know Honduras, one thing they understand very clearly is that it is a country of enviable beauty with a rich cultural and historical heritage, endowed with natural treasures unknown to many, unimaginable to most.
To have the best coral reefs in the whole Mesoamerican reef system, largest reef in the Americas and second largest in the world, to be the cradle of the invention of chocolate, to have the most artistic city of Mayan civilization, to be in the place where the first settlers of Central America lived, to have the second largest rainforest in the Americas after the Amazon, to be the land where some of the finest coffees and tobaccos are grown, to have the clearest waters in the world and the most celebrated diving resort on the planet, to be the first place on the American continent where Columbus set foot, and the meeting place of many cultures, these are only glimpses of this country's vast tourism potential.
Thanks to these remarkable characteristics and the country's strategic location right at the midpoint of the Americas, the government of Honduras through President Juan Orlando Hernández has declared tourism to be a national priority.
This declaration has many elements that will undoubtedly energize tourism in the country, considering that it combines sectors engaged in tourism with accompanying priorities such as regard for public safety, protection of the country's natural and archeological wealth, maintenance of the nation's living cultures and protection of the environment.
Domestically, one of the most important points about the decree is seeing to it that tourism centers are free of violence of any kind, and government agencies responsible for security, airports and immigration have committed themselves to accomplishing this goal effectively.
In addition to the privileged geographic location of Honduras, the country boasts two wharves for Caribbean cruise ships and is about to open a third; in addition, it has four international airports close to strategic tourism points whose enhanced competitiveness will facilitate the arrival of tourists by air travel.
But this strategy cannot be removed from the world environmental context, and for this reason Honduras has set for itself the goal of becoming an area for sustainable tourism, in keeping with the parameters of the United Nations' World Tourism Organization (WTO), by signing this institution's golden book, in which the conditions for fulfillment are set forth; in tandem with this undertaking, sustainable tourism will also become part of government policy in the national plan, in this way providing support for the tourism sector's strategy of adaptation to, and mitigation of climate change.
At present, 300,000 Honduran families benefit from tourism, bringing considerable revenues into the country's economy, and with this decree short-, medium- and long-term estimates are more than promising in economic and social terms, considering that an increase in job creation on environmentally friendly terms is anticipated, as well as improved protection of the country's cultural heritage.
These goals are ambitious but achievable, because Honduras has got what it takes to make this project into a reality that, combined with the government's political will and the support of the tourism sector, will transform this into one of the pillars of the nation, enabling it to share one of the most beautiful places on earth.