MOYOGALPA – For years, the tiny island municipalityof Moyogalpa has been treated like the ugly ducklingof Ometepe. Tourists usually take one look aroundthe rundown streets of this island port town, and quicklyboard a taxi or bus to the neighboring municipality ofAltagracia, Moyogapla’s more attractive sibling on theother side of the island.While Altagracia has gotten a running head start onOmetepe’s fledgling tourism industry, Moyogalpa is nowstarting to coordinate its efforts to improve its tourismofferings, determined to show that a late bloomer can stillbear fruit.Since Mayor Luis Felipe Morales took office earlierthis year, the municipal government of Moyogalpa hasdeveloped a new partnership with the National TourismChamber (CANATUR) in an effort to get all sails pointedin the same direction.CANATUR leaders argue that the last three mayorshave shown no interest in developing the tourism sector.But Morales, a former educator and lifelong resident ofMoyogalpa, sees things differently.“Tourism, without a doubt, is the future of our economy,”Morales told The Nica Times during a recentinterview.THE mayor admits that the town of Moyogalpa,home to approximately 4,000 people, currently has verylittle to offer tourists in terms of infrastructure and accessibleattractions.Moyogalpa’s main attraction is Punta Jesús María, awinding sandbar that extends out into the waters of LakeNicaragua, with warm water lapping on one side and coolwater on the other. The sandy isthmus provides a greatplace to view the sunset while watching fishermen pull intheir nets for the day.But this natural attraction is now threatened by sleaze,as several ranchito-style cantinas are starting to encroachon the entrance of the isthmus, taking advantage of previousmunicipal governments’ failure to order tourismdevelopment.This is about to change, Morales asserted.THE first step in convincing tourists to stay in townafter getting off the ferry, Morales said, is to coordinateefforts with the private sector to organize developmentand clean up the garbage and litter.This includes removing the cantinas from theentrance of Punta Jesús María, to protect the sandyisthmus from pollution, both of garbage and blaringreggaetón music.The cleanup effort will also extend into the city, toclear the streets of litter, Morales said.“No tourists want to see garbage,” he noted.MORALES also plans to construct a tourism boardwalkthat will extend along the shoreline north of theferry landing.A new 50-room hotel is being built where the boardwalkwill start, to give tourists a better lodging option inMoyogalpa. Currently, the nicest hotel in the municipalityis Hotel Ometepetl (569-4276, facing the ferry), whichoffers a pool, restaurant and simple rooms with air-conditioningfor $35 a night. Backpackers, meanwhile, usuallystay at the El Central Hostel, four blocks away.MOYOGALPA has three hiking trails leading upConcepcíon Volcano, but many of its “virgin” beachattractions are still inaccessible or very difficult to reach.Improving infrastructure – not just hotels and restaurants,but roads – is another goal of the new municipal government,Morales said.Despite the newfound cooperation and the municipalgovernment’s willingness to improve tourism inMoyogalpa, island tourism leaders aren’t expecting anyhelp from the central government or the NicaraguanTourism Institute (INTUR), based in Managua.“Ometepe is forgotten by the central government,”said Gilberto Arcia, of CANATUR. “INTUR comes hereonce a year to collect taxes, but most visitors, especiallynational tourists, don’t have any information about theisland. Most people come here because they are drivingup the Inter-American Highway and are curious about thetwo volcanoes they see to the east. But they don’t comehere because of any promotion.”Despite the long road ahead, Arcia and CANATURare enthused by the new interest shown by Morales’municipal government, and the new era of cooperationand development he is promising.