The Multinational Monitor


G L O B A L   S I G H T I N G S

Boycott Stunts Guatemalan Tourism

The international boycott of tourism to Guatemala has registered some successes during its first year.

Initiated in late 1979 because of human rights violations by the military dictatorship of General Romeo Lucas Garcia, the boycott seems to have had a serious impact on the resort hotels, restaurants and night spots which had served as Guatemala's second largest source of foreign exchange.

The Guatemalan government tourist agency had expected tourism to be up in 1980. But according to its own statistics, the number of persons who entered the country by plane during the first eight months of 1980 was down 10 percent from the same time period one year previous. And U.S. government figures show 30 percent fewer Americans travelled to Guatemala by air in November, 1980, than in November, 1979.

Hotel owner Francisco Sagastume Ortiz, proprietor of the Maya International Hotel in Santa Elena, was quoted in the Guatemalan press as saying, "Tourism visits ... are down 60 percent." He blamed the reigning violence in the nation as the primary reason tourists are staying away.

More than 3,000 Guatemalans have died in politically-related violence since 1979.

U.S. multinationals have a stake in the tourism industry of Guatemala, and probably have suffered losses from the declining tourist trade. Westin Hotels (formerly Western International, a subsidiary of' United Airlines) won't say how much loss the corporation's 430-room Guatemalan affiliate-the Camino Real-has absorbed. However, heavy investments at the Camino Real, undertaken' in the mid1970s, were based on projections of steadily increasing tourism to Guatemala-projections which have not been met.

The Geneva-based International Federation of Food and Allied Workers, which first called the tourism boycott, has received the support of many labor and human rights organizations worldwide.

In the U.S., the National Education Association, with a membership of 1.8 million teachers, recently endorsed the boycott. The West German Foodworkers' Union also supports the tactic, declaring, "The tourist boycott of Guatemala is essential to pressure for an end to repression."

The boycott has used both humanitarian and pragmatic pleas to halt tourism, often stressing to potential tourists the dangers of visiting Guatemala.

For instance, a brochure prepared by the Eighth Day Center, a support group in Chicago, draws attention to four foreign tourists who were killed and three others who were kidnapped or threatened there over the past year.

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