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Sustainable Tourism Development in Nicaragua

Internship and Volunteering Possible
Nicaragua is one of the leading countries in the field of sustainable tourism, and the majority of tourists who visit Nicaragua are interested in packages in nature and culture. Nicaragua has the greatest potential for these two areas in all of Central America. "Community Tourism" is very popular in Nicaragua with numerous local initiatives that attempt to get into the tourism business.
We provide internships throughout Nicaragua in various projects in Tourism Development with INTUR, the government tourist office, and at several local community tourism initiatives. At INTUR and other tour operators, tourism marketing internships are also possible.

Project Details

Nicaragua's recent tourism development only began in the 1990's. Therefore, there are much less tourists visiting Nicaragua today than for instance, its neighbouring country Costa Rica, which has been explored for tourism from earlier times. However, the late development of tourism also saved Nicaragua from the negative impact of mass tourism.
The landscapes of the scarcely populated country are very diverse, from tropical rain forest to dry savannahs, from the beaches of the Pacific coast to the Caribbean coast with paradise islands such as Corn Island, numerous volcanoes and lagoons, and extraordinary fauna and flora. The Spanish atmosphere and history of the old colonial cities of León, Chinandega and Granada attract tourists interested in culture; further, there are numerous remains from pre-colonial indigenous times and even today, you can witness many aspects of indigenous culture.

INTUR - Tourism Development and Marketing

The areas of work and departments of INTUR (Instituto Nacional de Turismo Nicaraguense) include international tourism marketing for Nicaragua as a travel destination, development and planning of tourism in the country, project management and support of small and medium tourism enterprises, as well as improvements of tourism service quality in Nicaragua. Besides the head office in Managua, there are 15 local offices spread over the country.
You can choose one of INTUR's departments and then INTUR will decide whether you will be placed in the head office in Managua or in one of the regional offices to participate in project work.
Example of a project of tourism development: The Region of Chontales
In the Chontales Region, there are for instance, several archaeological sites of the Sumo Indians, dating back to 200-800 BC. These sites have been used to carry out rituals and one can find large stone pyramids and petroglyphs (stone carvings) with drawings including reptiles, shamans, monkeys, dogs, calendars etc. Only a few of these archaeological sites have been excavated and are accessible for tourism.
A local initiative of the village of Villa Sandino is the conservation of these monuments and is making them accessible for tourism. With funds from Finland, the initiative, which is formed by local accommodation owners and people interested in archaeology, has created a park of petroglyphs outside of Villa Sandino. Roofs have been erected to protect the petroglyphs from erosion through sun and rain; paths have been constructed, and guides have been trained. This park of petroglyphs is operational and it is visited by a few tourists. The idea is to additionally build a visitor centre/museum, as soon as further funds can be raised.
In the tab "More Info", you can read a report by one of our participants in this project.
This internship is being offered by INTUR, but you would primarily work with the people of the local initiative of Villa Sandina.

Recent initiatives of rural tourism

UCA Tierra y Agua
"UCA Tierra y Agua" is an association with headquarters in Granada, Nicaragua, that works in five villages outside the city, on the improvement of living standards of the villagers. This includes access to careers in the field of agriculture, the improvement of houses/flats and educational opportunities (e.g. scholarships) and the development of Community Tourism as an additional source of income.
One of the participating villages is called "Nicaragua Libre". The village is a 30-40 minutes bus ride from Granada, up the Panamericana Road.
Interns can live in the village and have access to literature on Community Tourism in Nicaragua and share best practices. Once a week, you travel to Granada to work in the UCA office there.
The idea of Community Tourism in Nicaragua Libre and the other villages is that the population is no longer dependent only on the income of agriculture. The tourism revenues allow a little extra income apart from agriculture, which continues to be operated on a small scale and previously was the only source of income, with only an annual household income of less than 1000 USD; this was never enough for satisfactory health care, education of children, etc. The aim of the cooperative is to raise the standard of living through tourism offers.
There is in the village of Nicaragua Libre, the "Albergue Comunitario", a simple Guest House with 3 rooms where food is also served. It operates several tours and sells locally made crafts. In the village, you can visit the plantations of corn, beans, watermelon and coffee; you pay $ 3 per person to the guide, who also shows cockfights and organises a tour of the volcano Mombacho. In cooperation with the members of UCA in neighbouring villages, more day trips are possible, such as a visit to Charco Muerto on Cocibolca Lake, the trails of "Los Nortenos", the Finca Posintepe and the nature reserve "Aguas Agrias".
As an intern, you can find new ways of how the cooperative can continue to benefit from tourism and also develop Marketing Strategy and materials. An introduction and practical support will be given to you by Meylin, who comes from the village of Nicaragua Libre and works in Granada with a tour operator where she is responsible for "sustainability". She lives in Nicaragua Libre and commutes daily to Granada. More expert support will be given to you by the staff of UCA. Otherwise, you work with the people from the village in the Albergue Comunitario; for training activities of UCA there is a small office which is also used as a "community center".
The accommodation is with host families in the community where tourists stay. Presumably, you can change the family you stay with multiple times so that several families financially benefit from your stay (if you stay with only one, providing them income, that might invite envy from the others). None of the families speak English very well, but in most families there are members who have Basic English, since volunteers have been in the village and have taught English there.
Info Box
Location: Various Locations in Nicaragua
Availability: All year, Start date flexible
Minimum Duration: 1 Month
Maximum Duration: 12 Months
Language Requirements: Average Spanish
Room with Host Family, Shared Accommodation (depending on location)
Supervision Possible: Yes
Qualification Of Supervisor: Technical personnel from the tourism industry
Minimum Qualification Of Intern:
Relevant studies
Further Contribution To Project: None
Volunteering Possible: Yes
Required Qualification For Volunteer: None
Further Contribution To Project: None
Professional Conduct, Do you have the "right" attitude?

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