Minister of Tourism
An architect and real estate developer by trade, Mario Salinas Pasos is designing plans for Nicaragua to take its place among destinations that appeal to elite travelers. Recently Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief caught up with the Minister of Tourism during his visit to the United States Tour Operator Association Annual Conference in Marco Island, Florida.
ET: What is Nicaragua’s appeal to affluent travelers?
Minister Mario Salinas Pasos: We appeal from medium to very, very high-end tourism. We have unique culture and adventure travel products and we have world-class golf courses with more under development. We have both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. We have two Colonial Cities “Leon and Granada” and the second largest church in the Americas which is a UNESCO world heritage site. We have yacht marinas, and “sunboarding” down the sides of a volcano. We have amazing lakes and fishing. We are ranked in the top five surf destinations in the world and in November 2012 we will host surfing’s world championships. We have incredible nature with two of the world’s foremost turtle hatcheries where in one night you can watch over 3,000 turtles come ashore.
ET: What about accommodations?
Minister Mario Salinas Pasos: We already have top five-star resorts such as Aqua Wellness Resort and we have under development Guacalito de la Isla on what is our “Emerald Coast”. There are home sites with amazing ocean views and there are three and four bedroom ocean view villas. There is a David McLay Kidd golf course, as you know, he is the award win ning designer of Bandon Dunes and the Seventh Course at St. Andrew Links. It is all together a $250 million project. Nicaragua is also know for its five star boutique hotels, including in Leon we have a converted monastery which is now a beautiful boutique hotel.
ET: How is tourism doing?
Minister Mario Salinas Pasos: We are beginning to be discovered. We now have over one million tourists per year and we are a country of six million people. Nicaragua is safe and secure, and our people are known for being welcoming and friendly. Our number one market is the United States with 27 percent and we are easily accessible either by commercial airline service and certainly private jets.