Nicaragua’s first coordinated effort to promote itself as “an undiscovered and emerging retirement destination” among the U.S. retiree crowd is being hailed as a “complete success,” according to Javier Chamorro, president of investment-promotion group ProNicaragua.
Chamorro recently headed a Nicaragua delegation of public and private-sector representatives at the national expo of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) in Las Vegas, an event held every October in a different U.S. city.
“The results were far better than expected,” Chamorro told The Nica Times this week in a written interview. “People not only responded well to our presence as a country, but we managed to attract 200 retirees to the country presentation.”
He added, “Many people who were unable to attend the presentation showed up later at our stand asking for more information about Nicaragua because they had heard interesting comments about what the country has to offer.”
At the Nicaragua stand, interested U.S. retirees talked to government representatives of Nicaragua’s tourism and investment sectors, as well as private-sector representatives of “14 of country’s most renowned hotel and residential projects,” Chamorro said.
U.S. expat Nancy Bergman, of Granada’s Hotel San Francisco, participated in the Nicaragua delegation to Las Vegas. She said there was a lot of interest at the Nicaragua stand following ProNicaragua’s country presentation, in which she participated as a speaker.
“Our presentation was on the first day of the event, and the crowds really picked up on subsequent days,” she said, adding that there were requests for Nicaragua to give its presentation everyday during next year’s event.
Bergman gives ProNicaragua high marks for its leadership role at the event.
“I thought that ProNicaragua did a great job,” she said. “Their presentation talk about the country and their film featuring highlights were very professional…I think it was a very positive experience.”
Despite recent political events here thathave made international headlines and sparked concern among foreign governments, not all of the 24,000 people who attended the AARP Vegas@50+ event were up to date on their current events.
“We chatted with many attendees there who knew nothing about Nicaragua,” Bergman said.
That tabula rasa situation made it easier to highlight Nicaragua’s positives.
“It was an excellent opportunity to present the various benefits our country offers as a retirement destination, including high quality of life and affordable living, personal safety, cultural affinity with the U.S. and a unique cultural experience,” Chamorro said.
He added, “One of the greatest achievements of our participation in the event was planting a seed of interest in the minds of retirees. We are not only a new option, but also highly competitive and diverse in terms of the costs, services and destinations we offer.”
The pitch was successful. More than 400 U.S. retirees ended up registering for the opportunity to participate in a 2010 trip to Nicaragua to visit some of the hotel and residential projects that participated at the expo. That’s more than double the interest ProNicaragua was expecting for the trip.
“The details of this trip are still to be determined, but you could feel the excitement in the air,” Chamorro said.
Coordinating for Change
ProNicaragua, which has been internationally recognized as one of the best investment-promotion agencies in Latin America, has been working to better coordinate its promotional efforts with the Nicaraguan Institute of Tourism (INTUR) and the private sector.
Chamorro says these efforts, such as the recent AARP expo in Las Vegas, is a “strategic approach” aimed at benefiting everyone.
And in the area of tourism, which in the first semester of 2009 reported a 9.8 percent growth in tourist arrivals and a 30 percent growth in income (while the rest of Central America reported double digit drops in both categories), Chamorro says Pro Nicaragua’s promotional efforts are better than ever.
“Our collaborative relationship with Mario Salinas, president of INTUR, could not be better; we are currently forming a committee between the two institutions to work together on the promotion of Nicaragua as an ideal investment and tourism destination,” Chamorro said.
He added that similar efforts with the private sector are aimed at strengthening the tourism sector as a whole.
“We are confident these efforts will deliver the results we expect and will set the groundwork for future inter-institutional, public-private collaborations,” he said.