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Luxury tourism

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Nicaragua has launched an international resort, which aims to attract luxury travelers.

Mukul, part of the Guacalito de la Isla project, is owned by native son Carlos Pellas, one of Latin America's richest men, whose plan is to change the image of Nicaragua as a destination only for backpackers and surfers, who spend only about $40 a day, a third of what tourists pay in Costa Rica or Panama.

"With (Mukul's) 24-hour butler service, lavish spa and a golf course created by celebrated Scottish designer David McKay Kidd, it would seem an easy sell. But there is one complication. The resort is in Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the hemisphere, one with a war-torn history -- and a place where no travel agent had ever sent a client, or been themselves," said an article in last week's Wall Street Journal.

That is the challenge faced by Pellas, who may be up to it, given that his business interests in Nicaragua are nearly as extensive as those in Mexico belonging to his friend, Carlos Slim.

Budget travelers are always welcome in Central America, where they inject much-needed dollars into the economies of families at the low end of the income scale.

But the region also has plenty to offer to upscale travelers. What Pellas has identified is a growing trend among the world's wealthy to spend their money less on real estate, jewelry and expensive cars, and more on experiences. Many tycoons share with students a spirit of adventure. After all, that's how they got rich in the first place.