San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Isthmus Sloganeers Tourism to Success

WHAT’S in a tourism slogan?Costa Rica knows well the value of acatchy ad campaign. Its “No ArtificialIngredients” slogan is widely credited withparlaying the lackluster tourist numbers ofthe mid-1990s into today’s 1.5 millionannual visitors.The other nations in the isthmus havefollowed suit, especially as some ofthem look beyond their traditionalpool of Central American visitors toeye North American and Europeanmarkets.From north to south:BELIZE will reevaluate itsnow six-year-old “Mother Nature’sBest-Kept Secret” campaign thisyear, according to the BelizeTourism Board’s marketing directorShakira Oxley. But any retooling isnot for lack of success.“As more and more people discoverBelize, it’s not such a secretanymore,” Oxley told The TicoTimes.Indeed, the country welcomedsome 220,000 overnight touristslast year, with almost four timesthat number of cruise-ship visitorsdocking for the day.Always Central America’s oddman out – the former British colony gainedindependence only in 1981 – Belize cherishesand promotes its differences.“English separates us,” Oxley said, andbeing the only English-speaking nation inthe isthmus is a tremendous advantage inpromoting the country’s archaeology, culture,reefs and rain forests in the UnitedStates, the primary source of visitors.GUATEMALA unveiled its new “TheSoul of the Earth” campaign in January.The slogan capitalizes on the country’sageless indigenous culture, according toKinnia Calderón of the GuatemalanTourism Institute.“And we wish to promote the high qualityservice the visitor can expect to findfrom people here,” Calderón explained.Guatemala remains Costa Rica’s historicrival in the Central Americantourism sweepstakes, hosting about 1.2million visitors each year, comparable tothe numbers here. Most tourists inGuatemala hail from neighboring ElSalvador. Calderón hopes the new campaignwill draw more visitors from NorthAmerica and Europe.“ONE Small Country, Three WideWorlds” goes the slogan of Honduras’ six-year-old tourism campaign. Iris Ramos,operations chief for the Honduran TourismInstitute’s marketing department, identifiedthose three worlds as its Maya heritage,Caribbean coast and nature reserves,the last of which occupy 25% of the country’sterritory.According to Ramos, Honduras is takingwhat it calls a “geo-tourism” approachto marketing, and is the first country in theworld to team up with the U.S. NationalGeographic Society to market its assets.The “Three Worlds” campaign fits nicelyinto a strategy to develop and marketHonduras for its differences, rather thanturn it into another cookie-cutter touristdestination.PEOPLE around the office have theirown take on the meaning of El Salvador’snew tourism slogan, “The Essence ofCentral America,” according to RobertoAyala, director of tourism information forthe Salvadoran Tourism Corporation.“I think we combine the best ofthe other Central American countries,”Ayala said of his interpretation, quicklyticking off El Salvador’s offerings ofbeaches, archaeology, volcanoes, hikingand ecology.Leftover impressions fromheadlines of the 1980s still linger,and Ayala admitted this has been animage problem. But the country hasnow proudly logged 13 years ofpeace and democracy.Most of El Salvador’s nearlyone million annual tourists comefrom next-door Guatemala –Guatemala City lies a scant fivehours by land from San Salvador –but nearly a quarter now come fromthe United States. The NorthAmerican contingent has beenincreasing each year.PERHAPS more than any otherCentral American country,Nicaragua has made its one-yearoldtourism slogan, “A Countrywith a Heart,” a true brand.“Everyone in the industry usesit,” said Carolina Briones, assistantdirector of promotion for the NicaraguanTourism Institute (INTUR). “It gets ourname in front of the public.”The campaign has taken a unifiedapproach, with the slogan appearing as amotto not just on INTUR’s materials butalso on maps and advertising for hotels,restaurants and tour operators in the country.Nicaragua has opted for the two-yearold,isthmus-wide “Centroamérica, tanpequeño, tan grande” (Central America,So small, So grand) used as a joint marketingtool in Europe, reserving the “Heart”campaign for its promotions in NorthAmerica, according to Briones.PANAMA uses “The Path LessTraveled” in its tourism promotions. ThePanamanian Tourism Institute did notrespond to requests for information.Seven Countries,Seven Tourist OfficesBelize Tourism Board(501) 223-1913www.travelbelize.orgCosta Rican Tourism Institute(506) 223-1733www.visitcostarica.comGuatemalan Tourism Institute(502) 2421-2800www.visitguatemala.comHonduran Tourism Institute(504) 222-2124www.letsgohonduras.comNicaraguan Tourism Institute(505) 254-5191www.visit-nicaragua.comPanamanian Tourism Institute(507) 226-7000www.visitpanama.comSalvadoran Tourism Corporation(503)

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