Capacity development - Improving the standard of living and quality of life of the actors involved in tourism 

Sustainable tourism
The Rural Market Opportunities Project in the Gulf of Fonseca in Honduras, funded by Global Affairs Canada has been implemented by Swisscontact from 2017 to 2022. The project aimed at contributing to the inclusive local economic development of 33 municipalities located in the region in various sectors, including tourism.

The project focused on improving the standard of living and quality of life of the actors involved in tourism, in terms of competitiveness and satisfaction, by strengthening their technical, financial and business skills in areas related to service quality, customer service, tourism culture, food safety, innovation, biosecurity measures, etc. In particular, biosecurity certification supported the reopening of businesses in the Gulf of Fonseca Region.

Likewise, financial clinics in tourism MSMEs were implemented, whose main purpose was to efficiently manage business finances and, at the same time, enhance opportunities for access to the financial market.

At the level of MSMEs in the tourism sector, the project implemented processes based on the regulations of the Central American Integrated Quality and Sustainability System (SICCS) in order to move towards certification and thus increase the quality of tourism service providers, through good practices and strategic improvements in their infrastructure. The staff of the participating hotels and restaurants were trained in quality, environmental and social standards, and also received technical assistance aimed at improving their processes.

The SICCS seal brings together a wide network of service providers at the Central American level, and therefore many opportunities for these businesses, which means improving their competitiveness and making a difference in tourism in the Gulf of Fonseca Region.

One of the main contributions of Rural Opportunities to the tourism sector is the building of  capacities of local stakeholders. Previously, some actions were carried out to establish the DMO in the region, but due to the lack of financial resources, the planned activities were not carried out; it was not possible to establish strategic alliances between the actors involved due to the lack of prior planning, prevailing improvisation, lack of information of these actors, and the lack of preparation of these actors, complemented by the lack of associativity within the sector. At the level of the sub-destinations, a lack of interest on the part of the local governments in the tourism sector was identified, as well as service providers working in isolation and with little tourism culture.

The project facilitated the creation of 5 local tourism committees in the 5 sub-destinations, which generated a solid basis for the implementation of a DMO, with a work plan and internal regulations. This process was done in alliance with local governments and association of municipalities, with the participation of local tourism service providers (restaurants, hotels, boatmen's associations, guest houses and hostels).

The project has succeeded in creating greater interest, commitment and reactivation of the presence of central government institutions to improve tourism development in the region, through the Honduran Institute of Tourism (IHT) and its strategy for the implementation of the DMO in the region, currently created and in the process of planning its operation. 

Based on the knowledge of the sector and the accumulated work experience, if the Rural Opportunities project were to start again, it would be highly beneficial to improve the results achieved to date in terms of scope and consolidation. This would include starting early with an information campaign on the importance of tourism for local economic development, integrating a strategic working group with leadership capacity to influence the different actors in the sector and strengthening the identity of the regional brand connecting it with all interventions and events in the region. In terms of work with the tourism committees, it would be recommended to work early on the governance and management tools for their work, so that they themselves can carry out activities or meet the needs of the sector with the support of the project, thus achieving a greater impact.

The contributions that opportunities rurales has made in the Gulf of Fonseca in terms of tourism have contributed to boosting the local economy, reinforcing its governance and strengthening capacities for more sustainable tourism.

Entrepreneurial ecosystems, Sustainable tourism
Rural Market Opportunities in the Gulf of Fonseca
The Dry Corridor is one of the most impoverished and economically depressed areas of Honduras. Here, 65% of households live below the poverty line, while 48% are extremely poor and experience high rates of malnutrition and other negative social consequences. Commercial agriculture for export is the main source of seasonal jobs for poor people,...