Photo: Joya de Ceren, El Salvador
The five countries that make up the Mundo Maya region expect to welcome 50 million tourists over the next 10 years, thanks to big marketing campaigns this year and expanded cooperation, Salvadoran Tourism Minister Jose Napoleon Duarte told Efe.
The Mundo Maya project, which was started with slightly more than $200,000 in seed money, will draw at least $2.5 million in investment over the next three years, Duarte, who serves as president of the Mundo Maya organization, said.
“Tourism leads to important things and this alliance among the five countries that make up the Mundo Maya is yielding results. The good practices are reflected in the results for each of our countries,” Duarte said.
Joint marketing efforts started last year, focusing on tourism fairs in London, Spain and Germany, the Salvadoran tourism minister said.
The marketing campaigns have increased the flow of tourists from Europe, the United States, Canada and other parts of Latin America, Duarte said.
“It is a renewed effort that has been hard. The Mundo Maya organization had already been created, but it was a little sleepy, and now we have managed to establish strategic alliances,” Duarte said.
Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Belize expect to welcome 5 million tourists this year, while Mexico is forecasting around 10 million visitors just to the Mundo Maya region, Duarte said.
The Mundo Maya organization has certified 20 tourist destinations, of which 10 are in Mexico, and the rest in the other member countries.
Among the Mayan archaeological zones certified by the organization are Palenque, Tulum, Comalcalco, Chichen Itza, Uxmal and Coba in Mexico; Xunantunich in Belize; Joya de Ceren in El Salvador; Tikal in Guatemala; and Copan in Honduras.
Tourists are flocking to the region this year because the Mayan calendar ends on Dec. 21, 2012, an event that some people consider an apocalyptic omen.
The Mayans lived in what are now Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador between 800 B.C. and A.D. 900.