Nearshore Americas

With Gangsters Behind Bars, Foreign Tourists Pour into El Salvador

El Salvador is drawing in foreign visitors in droves as the country finds renewed peace and security.

This positive shift comes after a sustained effort to combat gang violence, with many gangsters now behind bars.

Tourist arrivals in January 2024 alone surpassed 351,000, a 35% increase compared to the same period last year. This growth is primarily driven by visitors from the United States, Guatemala and Honduras.

Of these tourists, 70% opted to stay within the country, a significant improvement from the past prevalence of day-trippers and a demonstration of foreigners’ growing confidence in the security situation at El Salvador.

El Salvador’s safer environment is further highlighted by its ranking in the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)’s 2023 Best-Performing Destinations. The country secured the second position within the Americas, trailing only Turks and Caicos. It also ranked fifth globally, surpassed only by Turks and Caicos, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Albania.

The pristine beaches and charming colonial towns of El Salvador have always held immense tourism potential. However, years of gang violence deterred visitors from exploring these attractions.

According to official figures, El Salvador welcomed 3.4 million international tourists in 2023, generating over US$3.7 million in tourism revenue.

The Salvadoran Institute of Tourism (ISTU) anticipates nearly 4 million foreign visitors by the end of 2024, potentially contributing US$3.8 billion in foreign currency.

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Eny Aguiñada, President of ISTU, expressed optimism regarding the future of tourism in El Salvador.

“This motivates us to be able to project ourselves more in 2024,” she stated.

Narayan Ammachchi

News Editor for Nearshore Americas, Narayan Ammachchi is a career journalist with a decade of experience in politics and international business. He works out of his base in the Indian Silicon City of Bangalore.

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