El Salvador’s Tourism Surge in 2023: A Comprehensive Overview

December 15, 2023

El Salvador, under the guidance of Tourism Minister Morena Valdez, has witnessed a remarkable increase in tourist arrivals in 2023. The nation reported welcoming 102,000 international visitors, marking a significant surge of 54% compared to 2022 and 34% more than in 2019. This uptick is attributed to enhanced security measures, instilling greater confidence and safety among travelers.

Sources of Tourism

Most visitors to El Salvador in 2023 hailed from Guatemala, the United States, and Honduras. There was also a notable increase in tourists from Europe and South America. The first half of the year saw a 30% increase in tourist flow, as per CORSATUR (CorporaciĆ³n SalvadoreƱa de Turismo) data. The total number of foreign residents visiting for tourism reached 1,074,852, compared to 826,674 in the previous year, while Salvadorans traveling abroad also rose by 30% to 705,775.

Driving Factors and Key Events

Several factors contributed to this tourism boom. The implementation of a security climate played a crucial role, alongside major international events like the Central American and Caribbean Games 2023 and at least four international surf events. These events, along with high-profile occasions like the Miss Universe pageant, significantly boosted tourist numbers. Specifically, the first sports event alone attracted 5,000 athletes from 35 different countries.

Hotel occupancy, particularly in La Libertad, the epicenter of surfing activities, reached 77%. The country aims to hit 2.9 million visitors by the end of 2023, with CORSATUR reporting 1.5 million visitors by June, combining tourists and excursionists. A significant portion of these tourists, 45%, originated from the United States.

Air and Land Travel Increases

Air travel to El Salvador increased by 25%, while land travel saw a 38% rise. However, it’s essential to note the U.S. State Department’s travel advisory under the state of Exception declared in March 2022, which allows for the arrest of individuals suspected of gang-related activities.

Global Recognition and Economic Impact

The World Tourism Organization (OMT) recognized El Salvador as the fourth country with the highest tourism recovery, 32% higher compared to 2019. This growth contributes significantly to the national economy, with tourism expenditure averaging $161 per day per tourist, resulting in $807.21 million in revenue, accounting for 9.9% of the GDP.

Challenges and Considerations

Despite these positive developments, factors like economic environment, service costs, travel restrictions, and international uncertainties, such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict, continue to influence global tourism trends. El Salvador’s tourism sector is also adapting to logistical challenges in travel, like flight delays and airport congestions.

In summary, El Salvador’s strategic focus on security, coupled with hosting significant international events and a favorable global tourism recovery trend, has positioned it as an increasingly popular destination in 2023. However, potential visitors should remain aware of travel advisories and the broader geopolitical context impacting international travel.

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