Nicaragua has graced the pages of just about every travel publication, and best places to travel to list for 2014. What was once known as the war torn, poorest country in the western hemisphere has quickly become the new travel destination.
The 170-mile (280 k.m.) Grand Canal of Nicaragua, if and when completed will be wider and deeper than the Panama Canal, to which the new waterway will be a direct competitor.
“With this great canal, Nicaragua expects to move 5% of the world’s commerce that moves by sea, which will bring great economic benefits and double the GDP,” said Nicaragua’s Vice-President Omar Halleslevens, reported the BBC. But the thousands who have protested in anger over state assets being sold and economic and negative environmental impact fears are unlikely to stop Latin America’s next largest infrastructure project. Proponents say the project could lift Nicaragua from poverty. Opponents say it’s not feasible economically and could cause irreversible damage to the environment. Clearing an estimated 400,000 hectares of rainforest and wetland to build theproject has enraged environmentalists, who argue the project will threaten fresh water supplies, cut off wildlife migration routes and further endanger the country’s rare species.
Nicaragua‘s economy is focused primarily on the agricultural sector. Nicaragua will be one of the countries that will lead the economic expansion of Latin America and the Caribbean in 2015, with a GDP growth of 5 percent, according to estimates by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
Earlier this year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also referred to Nicaragua’s positive economic development. After their official visit in May 2014, the IMF stated that “over the past few years, Nicaragua’s economy grew at relatively high rates and its macroeconomic stability has been strengthened.”
Nicaragua attracted a total of US$1,388 million in terms of foreign investment gross in 2013, which represented an 8 percent increase compared to the US$1,284 million received during 2012. Also, Nicaragua’s FDI/GDP ratio last year was 7.5 percent, well above the average 5.6 percent of the Central American region.
The 2011 Doing Business Report, published by The World Bank Group, a report that benchmarks various indicators of the investment climate in 183 nations, ranked Nicaragua as the top location in Central America for starting a business, investor protection, and closing a business. Additionally, the country improved in these categories: ease of doing business, registering property, paying taxes, trading across borders and enforcing contracts.
The Sandinista government announced in November that it has finalized its contract with Chinese telecom company China Great Wall Industry to start building Central America’s first satellite, which will be ready for launch in 2015. Neither of the two cellphone service providers operating in Nicaragua have expressed interested in the satellite.
An ongoing tourism revolution means that its colonial cities, sandy beaches and lush rainforests are no longer exclusive destination of backpackers. With luxury Eco-lodges popping up around the country and traditional cuisine getting high-end makeovers, and more positive press for travel destinations in the last year than perhaps any other Latin American country, Nicaragua is poised to be the next central american playground. There’ll no better time to enjoy Nicaragua in its natural (and cheap!) splendor than at this very moment.