Interview with Anayansy Rodríguez
General Director of the Guatemalan Institute of Tourism (Guatemala)
Anayansy Rodríguez, General Director of the Guatemalan Institute of Tourism is the highest tourism authority in Guatemala, and recognised for her work. She holds a degree in Architecture from the Rafael Landívar University, with a postgraduate degree in Human Settlements and Environment from IEUT, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.
With significant experience in the Guatemalan public administration, she has led the coordination and evaluation of the administrative processes of the directorates and departments, highlighting her work with different national and international institutions and her support efforts in the Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism of Guatemala, Annual and Multiannual Operational Plan of INGUAT ensuring its implementation, among others.
From 2022 to 2022 he held the position of President of the Board of Directors of the Association of Urban and Territorial Planners of Guatemala, CREAMOS GUATE, where he implemented programmes, routes and circuits for the development of tourism in the city.
Dear Ms. Rodríguez, as director general of the Guatemalan Tourism Institute, what are the main lines of work of the tourism policies you are developing in Guatemala?
We have the Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism in Guatemala 2015-2025, which establishes strategies and lines of action to increase international visitors, domestic tourism, generate more employment and foreign exchange earnings. This plan is a shared vision of the public and private sectors, which guides the sustainable development of tourism and prioritises the direction of the tourism industry in a comprehensive manner. This constitutes an articulator of efforts, through which actions and resources are oriented towards a consensual model of competitive and sustainable tourism development. Our country promotes unique destinations in megadiverse environments that together possess more than 3,000 years of cultural wealth.
What does the Guatemalan tourism industry offer to the social, economic and cultural development of the country?
Tourism is one of the engines that drive and promote the country's economic development. We are betting on putting Guatemala in the eyes of all, highlighting the tourist destinations we have to offer the world.
Guatemala will reach its rightful place as one of the main cultural tourism destinations in Latin America, which in turn will translate into job creation, economic, social and environmental development.
Our tourism activity is highly dynamic and can generate multiple economic, social and environmental benefits in host communities.
In the country's economy, every dollar and quetzal that is generated around tourism has a multiplier effect, because in the value chain of our sector, it favours entrepreneurs who provide accommodation and food services, tour operators, artisans, taxi drivers, complementary service providers, among others.
For us, it is important that the public and private sectors participate jointly and effectively in order to effectively address the challenges and opportunities that we face in tourism.
And what does Guatemala offer the international tourist, taking into consideration the offer of the countries of Central America and the Caribbean?
For visitors from all over the world, the country offers destinations such as Guatemala City, the most modern and cosmopolitan of the Central American Region; La Antigua Guatemala, the main icon of the Hispanic colonial heritage and "Cultural Heritage of Humanity" since 1971; Lake Atitlán, located in the department of Sololá, one of the most visited tourist attractions in Guatemala, and nominated as one of the seven wonders of the world; Tikal National Park, "Natural and Cultural Heritage of Humanity", since 1979; Chichicastenango, famous for its multicoloured market, the scene of millenary traditions and experiences of the Mayan peoples; Pacaya Volcano, a majestic and active giant that attracts nationals and foreigners; Quiriguá Archaeological Park, "Cultural Heritage of Humanity" since 1981, famous for the incomparable beauty of its Mayan stelae; Río Dulce National Park, renowned for its stone fort, zealous defender of Guatemalan territory, and Semuc Champey, a natural paradise of turquoise waters and unequalled ecological richness.
The colourful handicrafts and traditional clothing, the hospitality of its people, the flavour, aroma and colour of its gastronomy and the beauty of its natural landscapes framed by volcanoes, lakes, rivers and mountains, make Guatemala a place to stay in the hearts of those who visit it, making it the ideal place for holidays or for business trips, volunteering, weddings and honeymoons, or to live experiences of nature, culture and adventure, highlights Guatemalan Institute of Tourism (INGUAT).
Regarding collaboration between bordering countries, do you think there is a common strategy or is it one of the weak points of the Central American countries?
As a region we promote ourselves through the SICA region and through the Central American Tourism Council, we jointly promote the wonders that our countries have and with which we complement each other.
We are committed to working in a coordinated and joint manner to position our countries at the international level.
Thanks to the improvement of air connectivity and tourism facilitation between countries, we have been able to facilitate the unique experience, from that first contact with visa procedures and border crossings that regional and international visitors make.
In this regard, progress in fostering public-private partnerships and the signing of multilateral and bilateral agreements on cooperation services between governments is a priority.
Some Guatemalan professionals highlight your willingness and commitment to the national industry, what is the current state of national tourism?
The tourism industry has shown a significant recovery. In Guatemala, the implementation of the Economic Transformation Plan of the Government of President Dr. Alejandro Giammattei, and the good practices of the productive sector, have generated great opportunities for this industry in Guatemala to achieve an excellent performance in a direct and indirect way.
Up to August, according to data from our Market Research and Analysis Department, the arrival of 1,132,366 international visitors was recorded, with an average daily expenditure of 101 dollars and an average stay of 5.76 days.
In domestic tourism, in the first half of the year, 520,104 overnight trips and 483,494 day trips without overnight stay were recorded.
Do you think the pandemic has brought about significant changes in the behaviour of tourists and travellers, or has everything remained relatively unchanged?
One of the aspects that the pandemic accelerated was the pace of change and the need for digital transformation. Therefore, one of the fundamental tasks on which the current management of INGUAT is focused, on the instructions of the President of the Republic Dr. Alejandro Giammattei and the tourism sector, is aimed at promoting innovation, connectivity and technological development as cross-cutting axes that allow access to content and tools that influence decision-making for the visit of one or more tourist destinations.
In your opinion, where are the key points in the relationship between the Institute and the country's tourism industry?
We are the governing body of tourism activity, our efforts are focused on promoting the country's tourism offer at national and international level, regulating tourism services and activities, and facilitating actions to benefit national tourism.
You know your country very well, please tell us which are the tourist treasures of your country?
Guatemala has three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Tikal National Park, La Antigua Guatemala and Quiriguá Archaeological Park.
We also have the traditional Holy Week and the Tak'alik Abaj National Archaeological Park which have been requested to be declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and World Heritage by UNESCO, respectively.
Tourism and handicrafts are closely related, and national handicrafts have suffered significantly from the impact of the pandemic. What is the institution you lead doing?
Indeed, the entire tourism sector, including craftsmen and craftswomen, has suffered significantly from the impact of the pandemic. Artisans are an important part of the tourism chain. In any tourist region, you can find crafts intrinsic to the territory.
The Guatemalan Institute of Tourism (INGUAT) trains artisans and provides support and technical assistance to innovate with their materials, but with innovative designs; we also carry out activities aimed at exhibiting handicrafts to promote the region's products. Tour guides promote local products or community enterprises.
We have biosecurity seals, which is a distinction that INGUAT grants to tourism service providers that commit themselves and declare to comply with the implementation of the Good Practice Guidelines for the Prevention of COVID-19 and other Infections elaborated by INGUAT.
Regarding the important value of the architectural heritage, what would you highlight from the work of the Institute?
Guatemala has an enormous cultural wealth expressed in all kinds of tangible and intangible manifestations, highlighting pre-Hispanic, colonial, republican, modern and contemporary architecture.
Guatemalans have known how to express the artistic forms, the ways of life and the actions of our society through which the inter-institutional work between the actors and agencies in charge, such as government institutions, local offices and the historic centre, has been vital; each one of them contributes valuable actions to preserve our architectural heritage.
INGUAT collaborates and promotes the valorisation and promotion of this architectural heritage, presenting a tangible sample of art, history and more than 3,000 years of cultural wealth that highlights our country. We have an impact on the tourist development of its destinations, for example: renovation of tourist attractions, improvement of the urban image, promotion of sites of interest.
Monuments and buildings of relevance in urban centres are a reflection of the past, a history and a tradition worth preserving.
The strategy of sustainable tourism is the best tool that can contribute to the protection of architectural heritage and promote its visitation, without depredating the heritage.
Let's talk about the digitalisation of the Guatemalan tourism industry, what plans is the Institute developing?
As part of the digitalisation actions, we have an education and training platform, which allows for the education of the tourism sector and others interested in tourism. On this website, capacitaciones.inguat.gob.gt, they can find guides for children, and it also allows them to create and share educational materials from any device.
We have a platform eservicios.inguat.gt where lodging establishments can carry out creation procedures, update commercial data, requests for rate increases and other procedures.
Our digital ecosystems, websites and social networks, have allowed us to viralise messages and communication campaigns in the promotion of tourist destinations nationally and internationally.
Do you think the national tourism industry is making efforts to provide creative and innovative solutions in tourism promotion?
Yes, we have been known for creating and offering innovative activities that attract attention to our destinations.
We can mention our BTL's, interactive activities that have been placed in strategic activities in the country where through a green screen the user can live the experience of visiting different tourist destinations in a matter of seconds.
Our 360° virtual tour (https://visitguatemala.com/360/), allows those interested to learn more about the departments from mobile devices; this tool has helped us to promote new destinations internationally.
Guatemala Romántica, an event that highlights the qualities and suitable conditions that the country has to develop events in unforgettable settings, with the possibility of celebrating a glamorous wedding with all the necessary elements, at the best price and with services of the highest quality. In this activity, we organised a wedding, so that businessmen can live the experience and have more elements to be able to sell Guatemala as a destination for weddings and honeymoons.
Our work actions have achieved that Guatemala has been considered to host events such as the "Guatemala Summit", of ICCA (International Congress and Convention Association) this October 18 and 19, which positions Guatemala as a destination for congresses, conventions and incentive trips, supporting the promotion of suppliers of the Meetings Industry Segment.
Also for the first time, the Forbes Forum will be held in Spanish, an event that allows world-class speakers and exhibitors to exchange experiences on issues, challenges and economic and business opportunities in the coming years.
This event will take place on 18 and 19 October in La Antigua Guatemala, a World Heritage Site. We will have the opportunity to show the world one of our most important tourist destinations, as well as the experience of corporate tourism, so that participants can take into account our country in the development of world-class events.
Do you have any plans, activities or actions for citizens to play a leading role in local development?
We seek to involve the community, which is why we have created different training programmes to enrich those involved in the tourism value chain.
The government of President Alejandro Giammattei, promotes actions that involve different institutions for the development of small and medium enterprises, such as Vicemipyme, MINECO, and others, and promotes the development of jobs through Mintrab, and training for the management of land and crops so that these products can be sold through the Bicentennial Orchards Programme and MAGA.
Tourism, together with other actions, drives economic growth and improves the quality of life of Guatemalans.
What are the main milestones for tourism in Guatemala that are foreseen in the medium term?
The positioning of Guatemala as one of the main tourist destinations in the region.
Guatemala's participation, for the first time as a partner country in FITUR 2023.
Promotion of Guatemala, through its culture and gastronomy in key countries such as Israel, United States, Canada, Germany, Santo Domingo, Mexico, El Salvador and Costa Rica.
Strengthening air connectivity
Digital transformation and modernisation of activities that allow the country's attractions to be displayed digitally, such as the 360° virtual tours of different museums in Guatemala and the development of multimedia material that disseminated different destinations in the country.
One of the successes of this administration is the reactivation of the Sustainable Tourism Observatory of La Antigua Guatemala, which measures economic, environmental and social indicators in order to make decisions for the benefit of this important tourist destination. This observatory belongs to the Network of Sustainable Tourism Observatories of the World Tourism Organisation.
Dear Ms. Anayansy Rodríguez, Director General of the Guatemalan Tourism Institute, thank you for bringing your country closer to us, and thank you for your willingness to work directly in the promotion of the resources and treasures of a country where its inhabitants always stand out for their kindness and affection.
The authors are responsible for the choice and presentation of the facts contained in this document and for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of Tourism and Society Think Tank and do not commit the Organization, and should not be attributed to TSTT or its members.