|Ball courts at Tikal|
Tourism is the country's second largest source of international currency. It's no surprise then that Guatemalans are worried about how this weekend's massacre will impact the tourist industry and the general economic conditions in a country where approximately 3/4 of the population lives in poverty and over one-half live in extreme poverty.
Last year, several natural disasters (volcanoes and tropical storms) were thought to affect tourism in the country. Tourists were also scared away because of the high rate of murder and overall level of crime. However, even with the crime and natural disasters, tourist visitors Guatemala in 2010 showed a 5.57% increase over the previous year.
On Tuesday, Mariano Beltranena, the president of the Guatemalan Chamber of Commerce voiced his concerns about how the massacre at Los Cocos ranch in the Peten will impact tourism to the country. And on Tuesday afternoon, the National Tourist Assistance Program issued a warning to foreign diplomats, Guatemalan nationals and foreign tourists to avoid travelling to the Peten while the state of siege remains in effect for the next month.
However, Deputy Director Guillermo Novielli of the Guatemala Tourist Institute said that the violence is nowhere near the Tikal and Flores and that tourists should continue with their plans until things change. Hotels, restaurants, and tourist agencies in Flores are the businesses most likely to suffer from the Peten massacre. Peten is the jumping off city for Tikal. Everyone hopes that this weekend's event is a one-shot occurrence. However, they are also aware that Acapulco suffered a 25% drop in visitors once open warfare broke out between rival cartels in that Mexican city.
And it's not just the violence that leads Guatemalans to fear about the future of the tourism industry. Danilo Valladares has an article about the threat posed by iron and gas operations to the country's beaches at IPS. Environmentalists, academics, and local communities are all worried about the damage to the country's ecosystem and are calling on the government to take a stronger stance against unsafe drilling and exploration in the country.