Honduras Tourism in the News

Strong Presence for Honduras in the International Tourism Fair 2010 CATM Honduras was well represented in La Antigua, Guatemala, from the 18th to 21st of October during the International Tourism Fair of Central America (CATM), with the confirmation of more than fifteen companies in the tourist industry from Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, Copan, Tela and La Ceiba. Mesoamerica Travel, Honduras Maya Hotel and Villas Telamar, HM Resorts, La Ensenada Beach Resort, Mariana Copan, Hotel Posada Real de Copan, Palmetto Bay Plantation, Gran Hotel Sula, MC Tours, National Chambers of Tourism of San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba and Copan, HM Resorts, Parrot Tree Plantation and Hedman Alas helped represent Honduras at the international level. There were 153 wholesalers from different parts of the world, of which 98 were attending for the first time in the interest of meeting new tourism markets in Central America. Tourism Minister Nelly Jerez is very motivated with the response provided by private enterprise because "CATM is a showcase to sell the region as a multi-destination."..."Honduras will be able to bid against countries like England, Spain, Uruguay, Germany, China and the United States," said Jerez, who will be playing a part in the meeting of the Central American Tourism Council CST to address several issues, including facilitating transportation to stimulate regional tourism. Sica Tourism Ministers Meet 7 News Belize Belize is holding the interim presidency of the Central American Integration system, SICA and today tourism ministers from Salvador, Honduras and Belize led a high level meeting on San Pedro. The subject was - what else- tourism … but it wasn't a glad handing, self congratulating review of progress made, it was a sober look at the fact this region is lagging behind. Jim McFadzean found out more:…. "Belize became a full member of SICA in 2000, but after a decade of membership, the country has been slow to take advantage of the regional grouping of 8 member states, and more than a dozen observer status states such as Mexico, Spain , Taiwan and China." In February of 1993, SICA became the economic, cultural and political organization of Central American States. It now represents more than 50 million people, and boasts an estimated GDP of more than 300 billion dollars. Like its sister nations, Belize is banking heavily on Tourism. But the region is lagging behind other popular destinations like Cuba, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic. Lic. Nelly Jerez, Minister of Tourism, Honduras: "We welcome Mr. Luis Simo the vice Minister of Dominican Republica, a country that has a lot to show us about tourism the way we must go, so we can make a region as powerful as your country is in tourism." "Indeed Belize and the rest of the region can learn a lot from the Dominican Republic. Last year that country showed revenue of 4 billion dollars. Thanks to Tourism!" Manuel Heredia, Minister of Tourism: "One thing that I know that they have is that they spent a lot more money than almost anyone of us here in marketing. The Belize marketing is the same form of that of Santo Domingo, it's just that they spend a lot more millions than what Belize spends. So tourism is all about marketing and I am sure that if we get together and we work as a region definitely we can achieve more." Jim McFadzean: "I understood it that he talk also most importantly that his country invest 3.5 million dollars to boost tourism to that region." Manuel Heredia, Minister of Tourism: "Definitely I also believe that infrastructure is a key component to anything in tourism. Unfortunately there are countries that do not have the resources to invest either from local funding or from international funding it is quite difficult, but if we would have the funding I for one believe that in particular in the archaeological sites Belize as a country will be willing to do a lot more. Definitely I agree with him when we say that the government and the people have to be willing and believe in the tourism industry." Lic. Nelly Jerez, Minister of Tourism, Honduras: "In Central America we are making a lot of efforts to show the world all the wonders that we have. We are doing it as an individual country each one of us but we are now trying to plan to work harder how we can sell ourselves as a region." "The united effort at selling regional tourism gets underway in Antigua, Guatemala next month. Reporting for Seven News, I'm Jim McFadzean " That effort is a fair, called Feria Catam with participation of more than 150 International travel agents. WTTC Applauds World Leaders In Sustainable Tourism The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) announced the winners of the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards at the Gala Dinner for the 8th Global Travel & Tourism Summit. The Awards, in association with Travelport, recognise and promote best practices in sustainable tourism development all over the world. The winners are: Destination Award - Blackstone Valley, USAConservation Award - Ecotourism AustraliaInvestor in People Award - RARE / La Ruta Moskitia, HondurasGlobal Tourism Business Award - Six Senses Resorts & Spas, Thailand & GlobalThe judging process, chaired by Costas Christ, a world expert in sustainable tourism, included a team of 11 international judges who selected 3 finalists in each award category, followed by an on-site inspection visit of all finalists. The winners were then selected from among the finalists by a panel of four judges. During the official ceremony, Costas Christ said, " Twenty years ago sustainable tourism was just an idea, now it is entering the Travel & Tourism mainstream as more companies embrace new innovations demonstrating environmentally-friendly operations, a commitment to safeguarding the cultural and natural heritage of our planet, and addressing poverty alleviation through enlightened business practices. The winners of the 2008 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards are helping to lead the way forward at a transformative moment in the history of modern travel." INVESTOR IN PEOPLE AWARD WINNER Within one of the largest remaining tracts of rainforest in Central America, home to expansive wetlands and indigenous groups, lies a remote region of Honduras known as "La Moskitia", or the Mosquito Coast. Modern-day travellers now visit this unique region as guests of La Ruta Moskitia - an alliance of five indigenous communities and RARE, an international conservation organisation who worked with local villagers to launch this community-based tourism project to address poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation in the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve - a two million acre UNESCO World Heritage Site that is located in the heart of La Moskitia. Through capacity building, training, and self-empowerment, La Ruta Moskitia has created 150 rural community jobs and supports more that 750 immediate family members. Eighty-two percent of all income generated from the Alliance stays directly with the indigenous communities involved, who manage their own funds for both community development and investment in tourism product infrastructure. The Alliance offers multi-day tours that feature bird watching, jungle trekking, and authentic cultural exchange as determined by the local communities themselves. Guests travel in dugout canoes, and stay in comfortable community-owned ecolodges and palm-thatched cabanas. Clarke, President & CEO of Travelport and Member of WTTC's Executive Committee applauds the winners saying "With growing climate concerns, delivering sustainable travel has emerged as an important responsibility for our industry. As travellers' awareness of their impact on the environment increases, we face a formidable challenge in providing environmentally-conscious services and at the same time, promoting the importance of tourism to economic development, cultural understanding and peace among nations. The recipients of the 2008 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards have made tremendous strides toward addressing this challenge by developing products and services that aim to mitigate the impacts of carbon footprints while promoting sustainable travel. Their innovation has demonstrated a commitment not only to preserving our planet but also to facilitating mass travel globally." 71st Meeting of the Central American Tourism Council SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador, Jan. 10, 2008-- The ministers of tourism from all of Central America are gathering today in the colonial city of Suchitoto -- a municipality in the Cuscatlan department of El Salvador -- for the 71st Regular Meeting of the Central American Tourism Council (Consejo Centroamericano de Turismo -- CCT), to review the progress made by each member nation on shared agenda topics, such as attendance at international tradeshows, air and land connections and statistical record systems, among other subjects A new development of this year's CCT meeting is that El Salvador, through its Minister of Tourism, Ruben Rochi, will assume the organization's Pro Tempore presidency. Willy Kaltschmitt, Presidential Commissioner of Tourism of Guatemala, will officially announce the post on Friday. The next country slated to preside over the CCT is Honduras Also attending the event are Ricardo Martinez, Presidential Commissioner of Tourism of Honduras; Mario Salinas Pasos, Executive President of the Nicaraguan Tourism Institute (Instituto Nicaraguense de Turismo -- INTUR); Michelle Gallardo de Gutierrez, Vice Minister of Tourism of El Salvador; Sara Sanchez, attending as the Minister of Panama's representative; and Allan Flores, General Manager of the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (Instituto Costarricense de Turismo -- ICT), attending as the representative of Costa Rica's Ministry Prior to the Ministers' meeting, the CCT's Executive Committee is holding a meeting for the general managers of the tourism departments of each member nation. A parallel meeting for the region's tourism marketing managers (COMECATUR) is being held, along with another for the Central American Chambers of Tourism Federation (FEDECATUR) Representatives of CA-4 member countries are meeting during the event, as are members of the Maya World Organization (Organizacion Mundo Maya), which is composed of the following member countries: Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Mexico, Colombia and the Dominican Republic. The latter three countries cannot attend, however, due to internal scheduling issues. Pahrump Valley Times Pahrump, Nevada may not be thought of as a place where holistic or homeopathic medicine or spiritual healing is pursued. However, Oscar Reconco, owner of Ancient Secrets, would be the first to say otherwise. Recently, his business hosted a visit by Malana Ashlie, a certified naturopath and holistic healer who also serves as an interfaith minister and ceremony leader and travels frequently to speak at workshops and seminars. Ashlie resides with her husband in El Porvenir, Honduras, after having moved there in 2006 from Hawaii. Her visit to Pahrump was for a book signing of her new title, "Gringos in Paradise: Our Honduras Odyssey." Ashlie met Reconco in Sedona, Ariz., during a seminar for metaphysical science. Reconco then invited Ashlie to visit Pahrump and share her experience about Honduras as well as offer her book. "We wanted to be close to family, but not too close," said Ashlie, "and we didn't want to lose a tropical lifestyle as we had in Hawaii." The Ashlies moved from Hawaii when new construction threatened their lifestyle. The mountains and rain forest of Honduras met their needs, she said, adding, "Crime is virtually nonexistent, there are not guards at stores to prevent theft, hurricanes are rare, no activity since 'Mitch,' and insurance is not required." Ashlie also said, "School and local buses are those resold from the states. In each town there are a lot of businesses such as garment factories, cigar shops, coffee, shipping, tourism, bananas, lumber and more." A newcomer may experience an emotional "roller coaster ride," she said, but it lessens with time. Also, there was no television or phone service until late 2006 and early 2007 -- even now reception is still sporadic. Until you receive residency, you must leave the country every 120 days. Apparently there are two forms of government in Honduras: fast and slow. The official government is slow to operate and some say a little dishonest. The underground government, however, is fast and can meet any need. Many Americans tend to live in improved areas and don't always interact with the indigenous residents. Ashlie advised that she and her husband prefer to "live among the locals. You can't get to know people unless you live around them and interact with them." Ashlie also mentioned that "animals run free and can be seen walking around town and up and down the road. Everything is shared, even with the animals." Health and dental care are excellent. Drugs are limited and medical people are required to speak both English and Spanish. An international debit card can be obtained as well. The cost of access for TV and Internet is $36. It seems that retired Americans can live like kings and queens in Honduras, even on a small pension. Ashlie states that she is an empathic as well as a naturopath. An empathic is one who can understand the state of another's emotional state. A naturopath is able to adjust to any environment without hesitation. The Ashlies have a spiritual connection to all things natural, she said, and thereby feel they can understand all things. Like millions of others, the Ashlies hope to find financial freedom, personal fulfillment and peace in Honduras. Life isn't perfect, however, as Reconco admits. "There are many natural things that can harm you," he said. "So be aware of everything." BY MARY BALDASANO 'Geotourism' Fights Tourist-Trap Travel By MICHELLE R. SMITH Traveling to a seaside New England clam shack for fried clams. Listening to jazz in New Orleans. Visiting a small organic coffee farm in Guatemala. These trips would all make for very different summer vacations, but they have something in common: They could all be considered "geotourism," a relatively new term for travel that focuses on a destination's unique culture and history and aims to have visitors help enrich those qualities - rather than turn the place into a typical tourist trap. The term is so new that few tourists use it. But it's on the lips of travel professionals who describe it as a step beyond the better-known environmentally friendly ecotourism. While geotourism encourages treading lightly on nature, it's also about authenticity and making a place better by visiting and spending money. "People do tend to like things that they're not going to experience somewhere else. They're looking for things that are not homogenized," said David DePetrillo, Rhode Island's tourism director. "People are seeking a more experiential vacation." Rhode Island in May became the latest region to sign the Geotourism Charter by the National Geographic Society, joining Arizona, Guatemala, Honduras, Norway and Romania in a commitment to the ideals of geotourism. The state will form a "Geotourism Collaborative" to come up with ways to preserve its unique assets, whether it be Narragansett Bay at the heart of Rhode Island or its Colonial-era architecture in Newport and Providence. Other areas have made maps with the help of National Geographic highlighting geotourism destinations, including the Appalachian region and Vermont's Northeast Kingdom. Now more than ever, it's easy to move quickly around the globe. While that can be a good thing, it also means places are "under various forms of assault," said Jonathan B. Tourtellot, who became the National Geographic Society's first director of sustainable destinations in 2001. Tourtellot coined the term "geotourism," and it first appeared in print in a 2002 study about the idea by the Travel Industry Association of America and National Geographic Traveler magazine. Tourtellot wants to bring the focus of tourism back to the character of a place. "The enemy of geotourism is sameness," he said. "There's a great deal of creeping sameness in the world." One of the best examples, he said, is Spain's Costa del Sol, sometimes mocked as the "Costa del Concrete" for its overdeveloped coastline. "It's not necessarily that a big hotel on a beach is a bad thing," Tourtellot said. "It's how the hotel is designed. It's where the hotel is located. What's a bad thing is nothing but ugly, look-alike hotels going on for mile after mile." Gregory Leinberger has never heard of geotourism, but the seasoned traveler likes the idea. The 25-year-old hairstylist, who splits his time between New York and Los Angeles, has bartered for goods in a Moroccan souk, visited Anne Frank's house in Amsterdam and witnessed the Muslim call to prayer in Istanbul. He wants to be "as foreign as I can get" when he travels, he said. Without knowing it, he's the ideal geotourist. "I want to be engulfed in it," he said. "I think that's when you really learn something." Among the foundations of the geotourism philosophy is its benefit to the local population. When destinations highlight the things that make them special, it not only draws more tourists, it also helps the local community appreciate its own uniqueness. That, in turn, motivates them to preserve the cultural or natural resources that keep tourists coming. "So it's not all the Wal-Marts and McDonalds that they aspire to. It gives them a sense of pride in who they are and what they do," said Don Holecek, professor of tourism at Michigan State University and director of the university's Tourism Center. Supporters of the geotourism concept say it also creates jobs that employ local people and income for local business owners. In Guatemala, small coffee growers that might struggle to make ends meet are opening up their farms to tourists in a geotourism initiative, said Lelei Lelaulu, president and chief executive of Counterpart International, a Washington-based non-profit international development agency. Counterpart International joined with the government of Guatemala and Anacafe, which represents 75,000 Guatemalan coffee producers, to sign the geotourism charter. "People can go and visit these small farms and get to taste the coffee ... look at the farm and incredibly interesting machinery, but also learn about the local Maya culture as well," Lelaulu said. While they're there, it's an opportunity for tourists to talk with residents about local issues. It opens up the minds of both sides, he said, and even has elements of peace-building. Lelaulu cites a 2006 report by the United Nations' World Tourism Organization, which estimated that worldwide, international tourism alone generates $2 billion a day in receipts. Seventy countries earned more than $1 billion in 2005 from international tourism. The report also forecast that by 2010, international tourist arrivals will reach 1 billion annually. That's about three international trips for every person in the United States. "I see tourism as the largest voluntary transfer of cash from the rich to the poor, the 'haves' to 'have nots,' in history," Lelaulu said. YPB&R Wins Honduras Tourism Account By David Gianatasio BOSTON Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell said it has been tapped for North American advertising and public relations duties by the Honduras Institute of Tourism. YPB&R in Orlando, Fla., said it would assist the Central American country with media relations and advertising primarily within consumer and trade news outlets that regularly include travel and tourism, recreation, lifestyle and related coverage. The agency said the budget is about $1 million, which is approximately the same amount the client spent in domestic measured media last year, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. YPB&R was one of several firms that competed for the business. Freelancers and firms working on a project basis had handled most of the work in the recent past. Honduras has previously advertised in niche magazines aimed at sports fishermen and divers. Ads have been themed, "One small country: three wide worlds." That positioning is being assessed and it is likely that an entirely new brand-building approach will be taken by YPB&R. Initially, the agency has crafted print and banner ads to support the Copan Congress, a special historical and archeological conference being staged in Honduras in June. YPB&R is an independent travel specialty shop with more than 100 total staffers and outposts in Hollywood, Calif., New York, Honolulu, London and Sao Paulo, Brazil. APRIL, 2007 Spirit Airlines Offers Nonstop Service to San Pedro Sula, Honduras! Spirit Airlines announced nonstop service between Fort Lauderdale and San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Service will be offered three times weekly on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays starting July 20, 2007 and will then convert to daily service starting November 15, 2007. In addition to nonstop service from Fort Lauderdale, Spirit will also offer convenient connections from its domestic network. San Pedro Sula, Honduras will be Spirit’s third Central American destination served. Earlier this year, Spirit started service to San Jose, Costa Rica and recently announced new service to Guatemala City, Guatemala. Spirit serves all routes with its fleet of Airbus aircraft, the youngest in the Americas. "We are excited to bring our ultra low cost service to Honduras which allows us to offer low fares and grow the overall market by empowering customers to fly who could not afford to travel before," said Barry Biffle, Spirit’s Chief Marketing Officer. “San Pedro Sula is the industrial capital of Honduras and our new service will contribute to the growth of commerce and tourism in this important city.” "We are very excited that Spirit Airlines has decided to start service to San Pedro Sula, Honduras on the 20th of July,” said Ricardo Martinez, Minister of Tourism of Honduras. “This is a great new option for our travelers with a quality low cost airline like Spirit. We are certain that this will generate more and new tourism to our country from different cities in the U.S. where Spirit offers connections. We welcome Spirit Airlines with open arms and look forward to seeing them succeed in Honduras." American emigrants discover nice people, cheap homes, awesome scenery I'm a sucker for clear, warm water and tropical fish. In fact, two of the few things I hide from our four children are my new mask and snorkel. "Just never know when I'm going to need 'em," I constantly tell me wife. Truth is, "never" has come along more frequently than "need." That's why I could not wait to hear from a fellow writer, Steve, who had just returned from a dive trip to the island of Roatan, the largest of 50 islands and keys that are collectively known as Islas de la Bahia, or Bay Islands. They lie in an arc in the western Caribbean approximately 40 miles off the northeast coast of Honduras and about 200 miles south of Cancun. The lure of Roatan, about 32 miles long and two miles wide, is its extensive barrier reef system that offers some of the clearest saltwater swimming in the world. It is the largest of the chain's six main islands and can be reached by nonstop flights from Houston, Miami and Atlanta. Steve could not stop talking about Roatan -- and his enthusiasm was as much about the property possibilities as the snorkeling and diving. Like several Central America getaways, most of Honduras is still off the second-home radar screen with beachfront condos readily available for less than $200,000. Marci Wiersma, a 1985 graduate of Enumclaw High School in the Seattle suburbs, moved to Roatan in 1999 in search of slower, warmer days. She juggles the chores of her real estate brokerage with the responsibilities of raising two young daughters. "The real estate market has really moved along the past three years but I think it has a long way to go before it caps out," Wiersma said. T.J. Lynch, broker-owner of RE/MAX Bay Islands Real Estate, sold his Vancouver, B.C.-area property company more than 10 years ago to head south to the sun and sand. "I would estimate that business is going up by more than 100 percent every year," said Lynch, one of eight agents in the office. "But this year was really off the charts. We sold more property in January and February than we did all of 2005." The ability of non-nationals to buy property in Honduras is a relatively new development. The Honduran Constitution prohibited foreign ownership until 1990 when a decree was passed allowing foreigners to purchase properties in designated tourism zones established by the Ministry of Tourism. Financing is available, but not common in Honduras. Offshore bank financing is expected to be available later this year as U.S. and European lenders and fund managers look to assist the equity-rich baby boomers who are fueling the rapid second-home growth and appreciation. Traditionally, local banks have charged 10 percent to 11 percent interest while requesting reams of unrelated loan documents. As an alternative to the red tape and high loan rates, home buyers have paid cash -- usually via a home equity loan on their primary residence -- or obtained financing from the seller or developer. While every seller-financed situation is different, buyers usually pay 30 percent down with the balance payable within five years. The buyer typically is responsible for transfer taxes and some closing costs amounting to approximately 6.5 percent of the purchase price. Real estate agents charge 10 percent commission, usually paid by the seller. Property taxes are extremely low and run one-third of 1 percent of the value of the property. While Roatan is still in the early stages of its development as a tourist destination, and the overall level of development is still modest on an international scale, the last two years have seen a substantial increase in real estate activity and the number and quality of new developments. More people are simply auditioning the Jimmy Buffet-island lifestyle and/or investment opportunities. Wiersma and Lynch say their typical customer is a 40- to 60-year-old American looking to retire in five years, followed by Canadians, other Central Americans and Europeans. Some U.S. buyers want to try out retirement by buying a second home now, using it a few weeks out of the year and renting it out for the remaining time. "The biggest mistake people tend to make is that they leave their brain at the airport," Wiersma said. "Everybody's so nice here and the island is so beautiful ... but you have to work to get things done. If you are building a house, you have to have a plan and the right people to put that in place." Nonstop from Houston? Where did I hide my new mask and snorkel? Ten or 20 years ago, mentions of countries like Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala conjured up visions of soldiers and civil war. But today Central America has become a tourism hot spot. The isthmus between Mexico and Colombia is better known for its culture and wildlife than its war-torn past. And tourism revenue has surpassed that of most local industries. Now regional officials are trying to encourage visitors to experience the region the way Americans have long traveled in Europe - by taking in several countries in one trip. Some 20 companies in Europe, mostly Italy, Spain and Britain, already promote tours of Central America that include visits to multiple countries in the region. And Air Costa Rica and Air Panama are trying to capitalize on the trend by opening two new routes between the Costa Rican capital of San Jose and two popular destinations in Panama. Promoting regional tourism is seen as a way of improving other aspects of life in Central America, from the economy to law enforcement to health and education. "Tourism is the passport to peace," said Sara Sanchez, Panama's tourism minister. The number of visitors coming to Central America has spiked notably in the past two years. In 2004, some 5.7 million people visited the region and spent more than $4 billion, up 14 percent from 2003. Preliminary data indicates that some 6.5 million tourists - mostly from the United States, Mexico and Canada - visited Central America last year. Nicaraguan Tourism Minister Maria Rivas said the Sept. 11 attacks contributed to the growth. "They are coming to destinations that are closer and safer," she said. Marcos Gandasegui, whose Ancon Expedition travel agency specializes in nature tours, described the spike after Sept. 11 as an "explosion." He said the appearance of SARS in Asia also encouraged many to turn to Central America for their vacation plans. Regional officials say they have been working for years to build up the so-called "industry without smokestacks" by encouraging investment, culture and the development of a regional market. "It's not something that grew up unplanned," said Coralia Dreyfus, a tourism official with the Central American Integration System. "It has been something that the seven countries of the region have been working on." Still, Gandasegui said the growing industry has forced countries to focus on tourism and related projects, like strengthening infrastructure, health and education in their countries. One thing the region doesn't need to develop is its natural resources: pristine beaches, coral reefs, some 900,000 different species of plants and animals, and rich and varied cultures fed by the countries' native Indian heritage, European colonialism and coastal settlements. For El Salvador and Guatemala, two countries that survived years of civil conflict, tourism has become the countries' second-largest source of income, after money sent home by migrants living in the United States. Last year, 13 years after peace accords ended that country's civil war, 1.1 million people visited El Salvador and spent $644 million. In Guatemala, where the civil war ended in 1996, 1.3 million tourists visited, spending $868 million. Panama has also worked to build up its tourism industry, converting many of the former U.S. installations turned over with the canal hand-over in 1999 into restaurants, resorts and even an upscale cruise ship-docking station. The country has been so successful that tourism revenues have risen to $860 million, surpassed only by revenues from the Panama Canal. Nicaragua and Honduras have the smallest number of tourists, with 700,000 and 800,000 annual visitors respectively. But both countries rely heavily on tourism dollars, with Nicaragua seeing $190 million from visitors and Honduras with $500 million annually. Nicaragua has also just lately begun promoting its tourism industry, and has received lavish coverage in many top travel publications aimed at affluent Americans. Costa Rica is the region's granddaddy in the industry, especially eco-tourism. Last year, 1.6 million people spent $1.5 billion hiking its cloud forests, touring its volcanos, sunning on its beaches and observing its famous wildlife. - Associated Press reporters Marcos Aleman in El Salvador; Freddy Cuevas in Honduras; Marianela Jimenez and Tatiana Lopez in Costa Rica and Juan Zamorano in Panama contributed to this report. Business News Americas: IHT plans to call for bids on Tela bay infra project in early March - Honduras The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and Honduras' tourism board (IHT) expect to call for bids "in about two weeks" for Honduras' Tela bay mega-infrastructure project, IHT official Maribel Díaz told BNamericas. Officials were hoping to advance on the process by end-2005, but planners were sidetracked by a slight change in project designs and the change in government administrations, she said. The country's center-right President Manuel Zelaya took office end-January. IHT is now putting the final touches on the project's bidding documents, which are "almost done," according to Díaz. In the meantime the pre-qualified entities continue to be five: Sweden's Peraarsleff, Italy's Astaldi, Spain's Constructora Hispánica and Obrascón Huarte Lain, and Costa Rican-Spanish consortium M&S Internacional-FCC. Construction would kick off a few months after the reception of bids, Díaz said. The US$108mn Tela bay tourism project includes the construction of a potable water treatment plant, a water distribution network and 20km in new road accesses in Honduras' northern town of Tela. The government-sponsored infrastructure works go hand-in-hand with the Los Micos beach and golf resort, which is being developed by private investors. The IDB provided a US$35mn loan to help finance the project. By Christian Molinari ------ Business Week Online: The Beach Less Traveled These Central American spots offer adventure, nature -- and plenty of sun, too! Officially, winter has just gotten started, but the early cold and snow make it feel like it's been around for months already. You're surely going to need a warm-weather getaway before the crocuses bloom. It's not too late to arrange such a trip, but it may take some work and imagination..."if you are willing to be flexible, you can get a great deal and maybe discover somewhere new and exciting," says Amy Ziff, editor-at-large at Travelocity, the online travel site owned by Sabre Holdings (TSG). If you were thinking Cancun, just keep heading south -- way south, to Belize, Costa Rica, Panama, and Honduras. These countries share many of the attributes that make Mexico so popular: sun-drenched beaches, coral reefs (the world's second-largest barrier reef stretches from Cancún to Honduras), Mayan ruins, proximity to the U.S., and good value. There are also rain forests, cloud forests, exotic wildlife, birds and volcanoes -- without the crowds of Cancún. ...Some of the region's least discovered beaches edge the long Caribbean coastlines of Nicaragua and Honduras. La Ceiba, a colorful city in Honduras, is a jumping-off point for the mostly English-speaking Bay Islands, which attract about 30,000 visitors annually. One sign of the area's growing popularity: Continental Airlines (CAL) is expanding service from one day a week to seven from Houston to Roatan, the largest of the Bay Islands, once a haunt of pirates. There are 11 weeks of winter left. That leaves plenty of time to arrange a warm weather escape. And, with so many options, you may want to get a jump on planning next year's trip as well.
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