With numerous in-country investments made to improve the experience, combined with its many nearby cultural attractions easily accessible to cruisers, Guatemala is placing an extra emphasis on this sector, which plays an important role to the overall growth of the country’s tourism industry.
“With over 120,000 passengers arriving to Guatemala via a cruise ship in the last six months of the 2014-2015 season, it evident that business is steadily increasing,” said Diego Sierra, director of Aviation and Cruises for the Guatemalan Tourism Board (INGUAT). “We expect an approximate 11 percent growth in the cruise industry during this year’s season which began in October and ends in April,” he added.
This year, Guatemala expects to welcome 79 cruises and 16 more cruises are in the process of being negotiated. Thirty-two will operate out of the Santo Tomas de Castilla port located in Izabal, the Caribbean coast, while 47 will arrive to the Puerto Quetzal port on the Pacific coast. This translates to an approximate 11 percent increase. It also places Puerto Quetzal as the leading port in the country, increasing its cruise arrivals by 20 percent.
Another focus for Guatemala is becoming home port for multiple cruise lines. “Guatemala most recently became the home port for British cruise line Noble Caledonia,” explains Pedro Duchez, Director of the Tourism Board. “This is a tremendous accomplishment for the destination. With these stops, 170 passengers have layovers in the destination, which allows them to possibly extend their stay to experience more in the country.”
To enhance the cruise industry, the Guatemala Tourism Board has made numerous investments in the past year, including adding and training more personnel to attend to visitors arriving by sea. A majority of this training was applied to offering custom-tailored services to visitors once on the ground, as well as to improving security procedures. Today, 4,500 cruise passengers are able to disembark simultaneously and be attended to in an efficient manner due to these investments. Additionally, the Tourism Board is expanding its exposure within the industry by participating in more international trade shows, such as Cruise Shipping Miami. Other investments have also been made to improving the infrastructure of the ports’ terminals, further improving the first impressions for cruisers disembarking.
Among the cruise lines already operating Guatemala include Azamara Club Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America, Regent, Oceania and Royal Caribbean. Visitors arriving on the Caribbean coast can easily visit attractions such as Rio Dulce and Quirigua, UNESCO declared heritage site boasting interesting ancient. For those arriving on the Pacific coast, Guatemala’s famed city of Antigua, which boasts beautiful colonial architecture and charming cobblestone streets, is nearby. The beautiful black-sand beaches of Monterrico are another relaxing option.
Guatemala Tourism Board will showcase the country growing appeal, especially within the cruising sector at Cruise Shipping Miami.