MANAGUA – After he was transplanted as tourism director earlier this year to become a personal aide to President Daniel Ortega, architect Mario Salinas last week was renamed head of the Nicaraguan Tourism Institute (INTUR) and promoted to the rank of minister.
According INTUR’s legal director Omar Oporta, Salinas will work more closely with Ortega and will have fewer restrictions when it comes to attracting tourism investment.
Oporta told The Nica Times that Salinas’ expanded powers show that the Ortega administration is committed to tourism, a sector which has seen a slowed growth this year, at 4.6% compared to 8% in 2006 – although this year’s statistics apparently don’t include tourists entering across the northern border.
Ortega, who plucked Salinas from INTUR earlier this year to make him his personal Tourism, Housing and Infrastructure aide, renaming him to the government post Nov. 21. Oporta said the INTUR director hasn’t had the powers of a minister since the 1980s.
Miguel Romero, the director of the National Tourism Chamber (CANATUR), an association of private tourism businesses, said Salinas renaming is a “positive” change for the tourism sector.
“Mario Salinas is a person who has worked with the private sector, and his first stint (as INTUR president) left a good impression with the business sector. We believe the sector can develop with him,” Romero said this week.
Romero also applauded the government’s decision to give Salinas the rank of minister.
“Generally, Central American countries demand that the heads of their tourism institutes are given the rank of minister,” he said.
Romero said the lack of a leader to direct the government’s tourism policy in recent months has been costly for the tourism sector, but that he hopes things will now start to turn around.
The Nica Times tried contacting Salinas this week, but was told he was out of the country.