Granada has everything it needs to be a solid tourism destination; we are truly lucky to live in a city filled with so many attractions. We have sunny days, a rich history, beautiful architecture, several quaint towns that many of us have not even yet explored, fertile land to produce coffee, cacao and plantains, gastronomy that we inherited from the pre-Columbian times, an amazing volcano with a rain forest, a massive lake so large we call it “mar dulce,” and 365 islands teeming with wildlife.
Yet despite all the advantages we’ve been handed, Granada still needs help; it needs true visionary leadership in all sectors of society to unleash its full potential in a way that safeguards its people, culture and heritage. We all have our role to play in building Granada’s future.
Our city needs respectful visitors, guardians and industry-shapers. We need everyone to be loyal and committed to Granada. And we need everyone to do their part.
1. Granadinos: Granadinos are proud of their city, and it’s obvious why. They’ve had the good fortune of being born in one of the most beautiful cities in the world! But if Granada is to become the focal point for Nicaragua’s tourism industry, Granadinos need to understand that their role and involvement in the industry is key to protecting the city and shaping the decision-making process to determine its future.
Granada needs its people to be the guardians of the city. They need to remain loyal and true to Granada’s heritage, culture, tradition, architecture, people and environment. More active Granadino participation in all sectors of society is crucial. That means fewer hours on rocking chairs and more time organizing to protect our city!
2. Granada’s Private Sector: Granada is a booming tourist destination; it’s sexy, attractive and great for business. But one thing that cannot go unnoticed is the fact that Granada is in Nicaragua—the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. If we want the tourist industry to be a partial solution to our national challenges, we need to start creating and demanding ethical and socially aware businesses.
Granada’s potential cannot be fully unleashed without innovative, empathetic, law-abiding business leaders. These are people who naturally want to make profits, but who are willing to make important long-term decisions for the wellbeing of both their enterprises and community. We need business people who do not allow the destruction of the tourist destination that feeds them; people who believe that participation in civic life is a healthier way to grow stronger as a community with strong networks that help us confront challenges and flourish as a city.
3. Granada’s Elected Authorities: Nicaragua is a beautiful country with great potential; that is exactly why our government is investing so much in the tourism industry by paying big bucks to participate in international fairs and to generate international press. But bigger bucks need to be invested at home where there is lots of urgent work to be done if we’re going to open our doors and invite people to visit our country.
As elected leaders, our local authorities have a fundamental responsibility to ensure the development of this complex industry as it affects all parts of society, especially human beings. The Alcaldía, INTUR, Policía, MIGOB, MIFAM, MINSA, MARENA—all these institutions, without exception, need to have an articulated and clear vision of where this industry is going, and understand its particular needs, benefits and threats.
Just as businesses need to study, innovate and adapt to new demands, so do local authorities. It is not the same to lead an agriculture-oriented city, than it is to lead a tourism-oriented city. Our leaders have an obligation to learn about the tourism industry, join hands between all institutions and give the industry the status it deserves.
4. Granada’s Visitors: What type of tourist do we want to attract? If our goal is simply to sell more beer in liter bottles, cheap rum, sex, and loud music, then we can expect a decline in the quality of people we attract, as well as a decline in the positive effect that a healthy cultural exchange naturally promoted by tourism can have on local people. Granada has a lot more to offer than just partying, which in healthy doses is perfectly fine. We have a wide array of richness to share: cultural expression, natural beauty, architectural magnificence, rural warmth, and traditional gastronomy, just to mention a few.
Businesses need to start thinking outside the box during concept creation and realize that by the simple act of opening a business, we immediately become key shapers of the tourism industry and of the type of visitors we attract. Authorities must guarantee the application of laws to protect both the businesses that promote a healthy industry, as well as Granada’s residents, who have all the right in the world to live in a healthy and peaceful city. How about attracting respectful travelers who are ambassadors of their own countries, travelers who obey by Nicaraguan law, respect Nicaraguan culture and who are willing to have healthy cultural exchanges with Nicaraguans?
None of this will happen magically; it will only happen when we all start being aware, thinking strategically and putting serious intention. The potential is vast today; tomorrow it may be fleeting.