Will San Juan del Sur finally get a cruise ship terminal?

San Juan del Sur

Tim Rogers

San Juan del Sur

The Sandinista government’s long-stalled plans to built a cruise ship terminal and tourism center in San Juan del Sur appear to be back on track.

First Lady Rosario Murillo announced this week that the government is prepared to start a bidding process for construction of the tourism pier, estimated to cost around $2.5 million.

“It’s a great project that is scheduled to be built by December 2015, with a cost of $2.5 million — a project that will create better conditions for the arrival of cruise ships,” Murillo told her family’s media outlets.

The tourism project, which has been talked about since 2010, will have a commercial center and a recreation area, Murillo promised. The first lady said there will be model of the project on display in the mayor’s office, for those with a taste for tableaux.

The plan for a cruise ship terminal in San Juan del Sur was first rolled out in 2010, and then quickly rolled away.

“The plan includes designing a new dock where passengers can disembark directly onto the port instead of being transferred from the cruise ship to the port by a local boat,” said then-Tourism Minister Mario Salinas in a March 27, 2010 press release. Without offering details about the cost of investment, Salinas said the master plan focuses on redesigning the port’s facilities by including restaurants, souvenir stores and other attractions.

“This project will represent a very significant investment,” the former tourism minister said. “The decision has been made to initiate the design of this development plan as soon as possible, which will probably transform the port into one of Central America’s most attractive sites. Since we are expecting an increase in cruise ships entering the country, we need to improve the infrastructure of our ports and the services they provide.”

The cruise ship pier was announced at the same time as new plans were unveiled to finally complete the coastal highway — a project that was later abandoned for the umpteenth time. Since then, little has been said about the tourism pier, and many expected that too had been shelved, especially as cruise ship tourism dipped.

Based on early growth of cruise ship arrivals, Nicaraguan tourism officials estimated in 2010 that Nicaragua would now be receiving somewhere around 100 cruise ships a year, during the October – May cruise ship season. Instead, those numbers have fallen.

According to numbers published recently on a government website, Nicaragua attracted 45 cruise ships in 2008, 42 in 2009 and 35 in 2010. The 2013-2014 season, which ends in May, is expected to bring only 28 cruise ships to San Juan del Sur — far from the original projection of 100.

By thawing its plans to build the cruise ship terminal in San Juan del Sur, the government hopes to reverse the current trend.

Overall, Nicaragua expects to receive 1.3 million tourists this year, a 6.5% increase from last year’s numbers, according to INTUR.

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