As Nicaragua’s tourism grows, seasons blur

The number of small tourism businesses has more than doubled in the past five years, according to INTUR

The difference between Nicaragua’s traditional “high season” and “low season” for tourism is becoming increasingly irrelevant due to factors such as special group events, international conferences and airline promotions, according to the National Tourism Chamber (CANATUR).

“I would say there’s no real difference anymore, and the hotel occupancy rates show it,” says Zenayda Laguna, executive director of CANATUR. “We don’t know when it’s high season or low season anymore.”

Determining Nicaragua’s high season and low season has never been an exact science anyway. The “high season” is typically considered to be November through March, to coincide with the dry season. But recently, Nicaragua’s “low season” has become as unpredictable as the rains.

CANATUR reports that the average hotel occupancy among its members is 63% for the first trimester of 2012, about three percentage points higher than the same period last year.

However, Laguna says, calculating hotel occupancy in Nicaragua is not a punctilious process.

“The numbers we have are from the larger, more serious hotels,”  Laguna told The Nicaragua Dispatch. “But many of the smaller hotels have a culture of not reporting their numbers, regardless of whether they are up or down.”

She says the reluctance of many small businesses to report their numbers makes it difficult to measure with great accuracy the varying hotel occupancy rates in different parts of the country.

What is clear is that new tourism businesses are growing quickly in Nicaragua.

The number of micro, small and medium-sized tourism businesses in Nicaragua has more than doubled in the past five years, from 2,526 to 5,867, generating 37,000 new jobs, according to the Nicaraguan Tourism Institute (INTUR). Small businesses now represent 90% of all tourism businesses in Nicaragua.

“Small businesses are the backbone of tourism development in our country,” Tourism Minister Mario Salinas said Monday, according to a report by the EFE wire service. 

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  • Jim Shapiro

    “…not a punctilious process.”


  • good

    Congratulations to Minister Maria Salinas and CANATOUR. The seasons are blurred because we finally have real international marketing and the hotels are now full because we do not have enough quality hotels to meet this this demand.

  • Happy

    Since I’m not in Granada full time so rent out my place when not there it’s both good news and what I’m experiancing. Originally I thought place would be empty during the rain but not the case this year.

    My suspicion is that more people are also viewing Nicaragua DIspatch and getting a better feeling about visiting Nicaragua. Once the world economy heals it can only get better.

  • David Cardin

    I wish this was a true article, but it is as bogus as the day is long. The high season from December to the day after Semana Santa is night and day from the “low season” from April to December. Leon’s hotels are less than half full, and the beach hotels in the Las Penitas Pacific ocean area’s have less than 20% occupancy, most restaurants are nearly empty. The miles of pristine beaches are empty, the perfect surfing waves have only a few locals.
    Again, all promotions for Nicaragua are geared to the Granada and San Juan del Sur regions and northern Nicaragua doesn’t get the porportional promo and therefore a disproportional amount of tourist activity.
    I wish this article was correct that high and low seasons are nearly the same, but for us at least in the north the high and low seasons are vastly different, as in rich and poor.

  • harold

    I have started to see travel packages to Nicaragua in the United States where I used to see only see Costa Rica and Mexico. This I think is good fro Nicaragua.

  • jeff oldman

    Nicaragua is a wonderful country I especially love the coasts. Some great waves can be had at Playa Santana!

  • Philip Christopher

    I do not entirely disagree with David Cardin. I think this article exaggerates the low season occupancy in general.

    Nonetheless, in reality there are four distinct seasons from the stand point of lodging occupancy and pricing. There is the traditional North American snow bird high season from US Thanksgiving to Easter/US spring break. Then there is there is the primary or high season for surfing from April to end of US summer in August.There are two brief should seasons between snow bird high and surfer high. And finally there is Nica holiday season, the few weeks around Navidad and Semana Santa.

    For the southern coasts, especially Tola, the surf season is beginning to stretch out year round, with perhaps the exception of the late rainy season in Sept/Oct/Nov a shoulder season.

    And finally comparing occupancy rates in Managua which is driven by business travel to resort areas provides little real analysis.

    I will also say that recently I took note that almost all the high end gentleman’s clubs in Managua have closed. I take this as strong indication that the top tier hotels are not as full as they were five years ago and that travel budgets are tighter than they were then also.

    But as to surfing in Tola, the growth is palatable and measurable. Occupancy may remain low at times but the total number of beds continues to increase by a strong percentage every year.

    • terrance rogan

      I believe the reason for the closure of the high end gent clubs in Managua may have something to do with drugs and money laundering

  • Mike @ Farmstay El Porton Verde

    Now that our place has been open a few months, we are looking forward to seeing what the occupancy trends are. So far it seems to be true that there is an off-season, but at least for us it only seems to be for the month of October. Which is fine, as a little break is welcome. Most of the other lodging owners/operators agree with this assessment. I am sorry to hear from David Cardin that the Leon area doesn’t seem to get as many tourists, especially in the off-season. Perhaps INTUR will take notice and help to spread the wealth around a little bit more?
    I always tell my surfing buddies that the surf up north is every bit as good as in the Tola area, but with one-tenth the crowd, but most first time visitors will go and do the “golden triangle” of San Juan del Sur, Granada, and Ometepe in that first trip, and maybe if/when they return they will venture out to the other areas.
    However, if the weather is good (i.e. not too much rain and the offshore winds hold up) then the surfers will keep coming down even in October.
    I agree with some of the other comments that coming on vacation to Nicaragua is much more of a mainstream proposal then it used to be. INTUR has done a great job IMHO.

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  • Brune Raphael

    I am really glad to hear the tourism is up for Nicaragua, regardless of if it is in the north or south. I have visited Nicaragua more than 20 times in 6 years and I see more prosperity for the people in general. That may or may not have to do with tourism, but it is refreshing.
    Nicaragua has put an importance on infrastructure and that is a big deal for me. When you can have water and electricity at your lodging and nice roads to travel on and helpful citizens, as is the case ,then that will be a big boost for tourism.
    The fact that it is safer than other central american countries is a plus, however in the region that I visit , there is a lot of petty theft and mugging that takes place and this must be curbed.
    I know that police do not want to arrest their neighbor because they just ripped off some gringo but the stories of friends and visitors to the popular area’s are swirling and a reality . Some sort of justice needs to be dealt when it comes to the perpetrators of these crimes. Otherwise people will want to vacation somewhere else.
    Also some of the popular beaches around SJDS, like Madera have a pollution issue, how can 60 people a day, visit a beach and stay where there is no real system in place for human waste . This cannot continue without it becoming a real problem. I have seen communities in the U.S. and Mexico that have sprung up to accomodate the surfing crowd with the mainstream tourist’s following right behind and this always becomes an issue.
    I think the tourist board and those who profit from the visitors, should re-invest in more sanitary facilities for the popular beach’s which have sprung up in many areas along the pacific.
    Regarding David’s comment, David, the fact that you have not been visited by the hoards of tourist in the north is a good thing, some tourists want to get out on an adventure and feel like they are on a path of discovery, the golden triangel someone referred to is played out for these types of travelers, they will come north, it is just a matter of time. Be careful what you ask for my friend.
    Also of note is ,I think that the beaches in the south tend to be more accessible and the fact that they are right next to Costa Rica is a draw as most people do not even know where Nicaragua is and you say “san juan del sur ” is just 40 km north of Costa Rica and people get it. If you say “oh, Leon is just 40 km south of el Salvador “people are like “where is el Salvador”.
    There are a lot of first impressions that help people make a decision as to where they are going to vacation. Personally I first visited Nicaragua because of the fact that no tourist go there, I love it still even though the tourist count is up because I know that the region is so vast and the nature so raw that as tourism grows I will always be able to go somewhere else to get away from it, like to the north or the rio san juan or rio Coco etc.
    I think that Nicaragua is expanding it’s tourist economy in a positive way and many friends keep mentioning a desire to visit there, I always encourage them to go and discover the place for themselves weather it be the coast or inland, north or south.
    Lets face it though, the average tourist (not surfers) will most likely go to the popular destinations that already have lots of tourists because there is security in numbers and the mainstream tourist wants it “to be just like home but someplace else” ie TV, AC, hot water, clean restaurants, safe streets, credit card friendly, and a welcoming population.
    The south will always be a bigger draw than the North for tourism, I have no doubt about that.