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  • Erick Brimen

How Tourism in Honduras and the Bay Islands Impacts the Economy

Honduras is an incredibly desirable place for tourists to venture for countless reasons. Whether it be because of the stunning beaches, delicious cuisine, or Ancient Mayan ruins and culture, it is indisputable that this draw is impacting local economies in Honduras. In this article, I will start with some more broad statistics, and then zoom in on the Bay Islands and Roatan to highlight how these slices of Caribbean paradise are driving tourism growth within the Honduran economy.

Tourism, as a whole, is the fourth largest foreign exchange income for Honduras. The only things greater than tourism in magnitude are remittances, the maquila industry, and the export of coffee. This fact alone is indicative of the tremendous impact that tourism brings to Honduras. It fuels the economy significantly, in direct comparison to the other major sources of income.

The research upon which this article is based covers the period from 2010-2015. Between these years, 9% of all Central American tourists ventured to Honduras. Out of the entirety of tourists who traveled to Honduras, 45% go specifically to the Bay Islands, an area known for beautiful ports, inlets, and stunning marine life. They draw in a majority of income respective to the status as the most desirable tourist location to visit.

Although cruise traffic remains the biggest mode of transport to bring visitors to Honduras, air traffic is on the rise as well. Carnival Cruise lines is the largest bearer of sea traffic, accounting for 60%, followed by Norwegian and then Caribbean. Air traffic has been on a steady upward trend, with Roatan making a large contribution to this growth.

Once again, the Bay Islands generally and Roatan specifically are largely responsible for the sea traffic coming to Honduras. Roatan receives over 95% of all cruise ship traffic to Honduras. The impact of this should not be understated: this means that Roatan is solely responsible for a large chunk of all tourism to Honduras.

Considering the fact that the Bay Islands are so important to Honduran tourism, a deeper look into how tourists spend their money while there could provide added insight into precisely how tourism benefits the local economy and jobs market. Bay Island tourists allocate the majority of their expenditure to restaurant and bar services and then accommodation services. The former makes up 32.5%, while the latter comprises 31.4%. Following both of these industries, various local purchases including souvenirs and local goods make up 15.2% of Bay Island expenditures.

In terms of visitor demographics, North American tourists spent the most money and accounted for a high in 2014, comprising 38% of tourists. However, Central Americans remain the largest slice of the tourist population.

All of this taken together makes clear the importance of the growing tourism industry to the growing nation of Honduras, and it illustrates just how important the Bay Islands are to the nation’s economy. As these tourists continue to spend money locally and invigorate local economies, economic growth will continue in Honduras. The high levels of recent growth in tourism to the country are one more indicator of Honduras’ bright future.

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