What transforms a country from tourism pariah to hot destination for wealthy travelers? First, you need a place for opulence-seeking people to stay. Last week, one of Nicaragua's richest men, Carlos Pellas, opened Mukul, the country's first full-fledged luxury hotel. Nicaragua, with its charming colonial city of Granada, active volcanoes and reliable Pacific waves, is already popular among backpackers and surfers. And it is a new favorite among travel writers. But Mukul will be courting the Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton crowd, with rates beginning at U$500 per night.
Each guest room is housed in its own private building with a deck or patio—many with nap-ready hammocks—and pool. Accommodations cascade down a steep hillside to a long, broad beach that sometimes hosts egg-laying sea turtles. Guests also have access to two additional beaches nearby.
Mukul, a 2½ hour drive—or a 20-minute helicopter ride—from the international airport in Managua, is part of a 1,670-acre project, called Guacalito de la Isla that will also eventually include 600 residences as well as a larger hotel. To address its remoteness, plans are in the works to build a private airstrip nearby that will accommodate small jets.
The resort aims to be a “spark to make this country a destination for tourism,” said Mr. Pellas during a sunset cocktail party with hotel executives and the travel agents. “Nicaragua is blessed with extraordinary beauty, but you can't [attract luxury travelers] without an anchor, a world-class place.”
“We need people who are going to come and spend money. We can't wait 20 years,” said Mario Salinas, Nicaragua's Minister of Tourism. Some 1.2 million international tourists visited Nicaragua in 2012 (about a quarter of them from North America), up 51 percent since 2008. The government plans to spend US$6.6 million on tourism marketing in 2013, up from US$1.8 million in 2009.
Taken from The New York Times’ article: The Challenge of Pitching Nicaragua as the Next Paradise.