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IDB approves $35 million loan to Honduras for sustainable tourism program

The Inter-American Development Bank today announced the approval of a $35 million soft loan to Honduras for a national sustainable tourism program designed to promote an industry with strong potential for boosting hard currency inflows, economic growth and employment.

The Honduran Tourism Institute will carry out the program, which will finance public sector investments in order to foster a socially and environmentally responsible model of tourism that raises living standards in local communities. Private sector investments will also be encouraged in large projects as well as in microenterprises and small- and medium-size businesses involved with tourism.

The program will strengthen and diversify the range of tourism services and products in Honduras, improving its position as a destination for the regional and international markets. The investments will be targeted at the areas with the highest potential for tourism, with the goal of achieving a spillover effect in the rest of the country.

The Honduran region of Copan has Mayan archaeological sites comparable to Tikal in Guatemala, Palenque in Chiapas or Chichen Itza in Yucatan. However, due to its limited transportation and hotel infrastructure, Copan receives fewer visitors than the other sites.

The program will finance the construction of an airfield in Rio Amarillo, 17 kilometers from Copan, giving tourists an alternative to traveling several hours overland from San Pedro Sula or Guatemala to see its pyramids and temples.

An archaeological site at Rio Amarillo will be restored. Administrative buildings and infrastructure for visitors will be erected, as well as a fence around the site’s perimeter and a watchtower for sighting forest fires.

An access road to Rio Amarillo and the nearby community of La Castellona will be built and the banks of a gully will be strengthened to prevent further erosion of the Mayan site. An electricity network will be installed and the supply of drinking water for local families and untreated water for a coffee washing plant will be improved and expanded.

In the Coastal zone, a sun and sand destination that mainly attracts tourists from Honduras and neighboring countries, the program will support the design of a regional plan for public use and environmental improvement of 100 kilometers of beaches on the Caribbean, between the city of Trujillo and the area of Omoa, where a historical fort will be restored.

Under the plan, the coast will be zoned to establish areas for public use or restricted access. The environmental conditions and access to 13 kilometers of beaches around the city of Tela and the Garifuna communities of Tornabe and San Juan will be improved.

A center for scientific, academic, volunteering and educational tourism will be built near the Pico Bonito national park. The facility, which will be managed by a specialized foundation, will have rooms to board researchers, students and volunteers who come to Honduras to support various projects.

The program will also invest in infrastructure for visitors in three protected areas of Tela Bay: the Jeannette Kawas and Punta Izopo national parks and the Lancetilla botanical gardens.

In order to encourage private investment in the tourism industry, the program will finance basic infrastructure for the Los Micos development project, which will include two hotels with a total of 400 rooms, 130 villas and an 18-hole golf course.

The Honduran state will have a stake in this public-private venture by capitalizing its investments in roads and in drinking water, electricity, sewerage, drainage and refuse disposal systems. The infrastructure will also benefit the nearby communities of Tornabe and Miami.

The first phase of Los Micos has an estimated cost of $105 million. More than 80 percent of the total corresponds to hotels and recreation facilities, which will be financed by private sector investors.

The program will also establish a fund to promote nationwide participation of small businesses in the tourism industry, in order to build a vital network of suppliers for the sector. The fund will offer matching grants as well as technical assistance.

The sustainable tourism program’s strategy was broadly consulted with entrepreneurs and local organizations, while surveys were conducted to seek consensus among indigenous and Afro-descendent peoples in the program’s areas of influence.

The loan is for a 40-year term, with a 10-year grace period. The annual interest rate will be 1 percent during the first decade and 2 percent thereafter. Local counterpart funds will total $5,850,000.

 

 

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