NY Times on High-End Tourism

An interesting article titled A Delicate Balance | Nicaragua talks about Nicaragua's promotion of high-end tourism. Whether or not it will succeed we don't yet know but there is certainly more going on than I had realized.

At the end of the aritcle there is a list of high-end hotel options in the SJdS area and a list of restaurant options. While lots of NL members have said great things about Kelly Ann Thomas' El Gato Negro, it makes it look like there is a business opportunity in the area to cater to tourists who are paying 500/night for a hotel room.

They’re coming — if the Nicaraguan government has its way. In the past couple of years, the country has been making a huge push to remedy its gigantic public image problem (memories of a brutal civil war in the ’80s have been difficult to erase) in service of convincing travelers from the United States and abroad that it’s not so different from Costa Rica, its tourism-magnet neighbor to the south.

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Nicaragua needs to progress!!

I have read lots of comments, most of them negative. Why? Nicaragua needs investments, needs jobs, needs to get out of poverty. Carlos Pellas could take his money and invest it somewhere else, instead he is doing it in its own country. If you can pay $500 per night well, if you can´t, don´t go!! Please think positive!!

Ronald Benard Managing Partner B&B Abogados de Nicaragua Del Club Terraza 4 c abajo y 50 mts al Norte Cel 87200200 www.bybabogadosnic.com

Build it and they will come

If Pellas` business plan is all together and he can create and market a resort WORTH $500 a night to folks who pay that kind of money, more power to him.

Nicaragua has few world class tourist draws and those that exist lack the infrastructure to get to them and enjoy them. That means for Nic. to develope its tourist industries it needs major investment to create attractions. I remember when Disneyland was orange groves out in the boonies of Orange County, CA. Somebody had the money and vision to whack the trees and build a world-class attraction.

"Anything that is complex is not useful and anything that is useful is simple. This has been my whole life's motto."

Mikhail Kalashnikov, Russian inventor

Canal Investors Will

have $500 /night to spend.

$500 Hotel Rooms - Tough Sell

Submitted by fyl on Sun, 2012/11/18 - 06:06.

An interesting article titled A Delicate Balance | Nicaragua talks about Nicaragua's promotion of high-end tourism. Whether or not it will succeed we don't yet know but there is certainly more going on than I had realized.

At the end of the aritcle there is a list of high-end hotel options in the SJdS area and a list of restaurant options. While lots of NL members have said great things about Kelly Ann Thomas' El Gato Negro, it makes it look like there is a business opportunity in the area to cater to tourists who are paying 500/night for a hotel room.

For $500/night a tourist can find a lot of trendy or chick "in" places that have a more to to offer than Nicaragua and SJDS specifically but you never know.

Pellican Eyes rates average half of that and they have been offering a 50% discount for a while.

The $50/night hotels are empty but the places half that are packed - At or near 100% occupancy.

El Pozo, the one good high end steakhouse here with excellent food & service folded after a few years for lack of customers.

The world economy is gone but there are still a lot people with money - Will they come to Nicaragua?

Those in the middle and lower end are the ones that carry SJDS now.

This Is What

Pellas needs to incorporate in his resort:


We have people from all over the world who stop by here and soak. And we're off the beaten track. Really popular with the Germans, on their way to or from Death Valley.

Probably a lot less money than one would imagine, IF YOU HAVE THE HOT WATER . . . .There's probably plenty of it in Nicaragua if you're willing to drill.

That "waterfall" is nothing but a large plastic pipe manifold and a LOT of nozzles. It's purpose is to drop the water from 137 to 85+ in the main pool, and about 104 in the soaking pool. The water source is artesian, so no pumping needed, and way more than they need. No clorination during the winter, waterflows through so fast, but necessary with all the kids in the summer.

I go out there a couple of times a week when I'm in California. Lots of hot springs in Idaho too, but nothing this nicely developed.

Great Info Thanks

I've been a lot springs nut my entire life.

And at $5 - $10 a night with breakfast

That's a lot of weight to carry!!

But we're not Carlos Pellas

I would assume his decision to build that $500/might hotel is based on something that we probably don't know/don't have the connections for. Based on what I do know, my opinion is the same as yours.

As for restaurants, a steakhouse seems like a strange choice for the area. I would expect a high-end tourist going to the seashore would be a lot more intereted in seafood. I don't mean "a fried piece of fish" but some ethnically-inspired creations with seafood. It makes me think of a trendy restaurant in Seattle called Coastal Kitchen. The owners traveled to coasts all over the world and brought some very exciting recipes back with them.

While half the menu was fixed, the other half changed every three months, offering dishes from a different "coast". They would close for a day and spend it training the cooks on the new dishes, the waitstaff on the story of the foods, what wines would go with them and such. All the staff also got to eat the new dishes so they actually knew what was being offered.

Fyl, during an interview, Pellas said...


“After everything we did at BAC, the easiest, most logical and most comfortable thing for me to do would have been to retire. Go home, smoke my cigar, fish and relax. But I said, ‘We have to do something else’,” Pellas said. “I always had an idea in my head to leave some sort of legacy that goes beyond something that will benefit only shareholders—a legacy that will put a stamp on the country.”....

“Three percent of tourists worldwide generate 40% of tourism revenue on a global level; that’s a statistic that we have to keep in mind always because this is a country that has everything it needs to bring that type of world-class tourism,” Pellas said.

Currently, he says, Nicaragua generates one job for every tourist who visits the country. Pellas’ goal is to generate six jobs for every tourist who visits Guacalito de la Isla. Already, the development has 1,200 workers on the payroll just to get the project ready for the first tourists to arrive late next year.

Todays La Prensa

Interview of Carlos Pellas Chamorro after receiving an Amcham Business Excellence 2012 Award.


I don't see that many with money for Pellas rates.

Submitted by fyl on Sun, 2012/11/18 - 12:11. .....As for restaurants, a steakhouse seems like a strange choice for the area. I would expect a high-end tourist going to the seashore would be a lot more intereted in seafood.

Even a business here that caters to the high end crowd also needs local expats and typical tourists to survive.

The long string of nice beach restaurants all serve mostly local fish and some frozen imports. The logistics of fresh fish would make a deluxe trendy restaurant like you referred to tough to run and there probably is a small customer base anyhow. On the other hand a tender quality steak is hard to find outside of the big cities here and the El Pozo had that. It was a favorite of tourists one level up from the bottom packers but even that was not enough.

SJDS and the tourists that come here have changed. Many of the expat investors who spent big have lost their shirts and have gone back home. The tourists now are low & mid range "packers" which I am not using as a degrading term. Many are paying in the range of $25 for a room and C$100 meals. $50 each for boat trips too. We see a lot of South Americans as well like this. Israelis complete a 3 year military obligation and then travel so we see a LOT of them too and the are not low end spenders.

Who fills the $50-$75/night rooms in Managua? - Is there that much business travel to Nicaragua?

What enough money can create is something like Vegas

You bring in the entertainment, you create the spectacles, and it's all contained in the resort and has only a faint Nicaraguan flavor. For Familia Pellas, it's vertical economic integration -- the guy hires a car from Pellas or gets a ride in a resort limo. The rum and beer is all Pellas product, the credit card machines are all Pellas Credomat. Probably the slot machines are Pellas, too. Beach, casino, world class entertainment, and other stuff. A gym with an Olympic pool and a three story climbing wall. Everything you want on site including a shopping mall with a bespoke tailor. Add a couple of 18 hole golf courses and lessons from a major US golf pro.

Read Hunter Thompson's description of Circus Circus in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." Things like that have been done. Homestead in Virginia is like this. Most of Las Vegas was constructed to spare you contact with the Nevada desert and is pretty preposterous as a family resort.

Rebecca Brown

Most of this seems to be along the ocean front

Everything I've seen about tourism is that beach areas can be international tourism attractions; mountains tend to be regional attractions. Intur is promoting the ocean resorts on US television, and surfers may be scruffy kids, but they're generally scruffy middle class kids who will have money in the future.

I like to think about going to live somewhere for a few years so tourism, especially resort tourism, leaves me cold, but Pellas seems to be doing it right. Foreign investments always come with a distance from local realities. None of this is an either/or thing, but I'm happier seeing Nicaraguans owning and managing the hotels.

Rebecca Brown

If True, A Great Number

"Currently, he says, Nicaragua generates one job for every tourist who visits the country. Pellas’ goal is to generate six jobs for every tourist who visits"

I like a man with vision, who has a proven track record. His Budget car rental business at MGA is every bit as professional as anything I've dealt with in the US, and I've rented a lot of cars. His FDC and Toña beer aren't bad either.

Another thing that recommends him and his family is the way the Largartillo crowd wrinkled their noses and scrunched their faces when his name was mentioned. Marxists can't stand the cream rising to the top.

The more you write...

...The more I think you should trade the coffee venture for a condo at Rancho Santana and ship the American Standard bidet down.

The folks at Largartillo will have more in common with your coffee employees won't they?

They reacted in the same way a lot of folk in the USA would react to the name Romney..."That rich SOB"

They already think that you are one, you have to prove you are not.

Why Can't I

have the coffee adventure (and it gets more involved by the day, as Shelley asks>> "Can we have some . . . ..?") , - and be comfortable?

I don't mind "going campo" when it's necessary, and I'm sure there will be plenty of that as I visit less well-traveled parts of Nicaragua.

The folks at Lagartillo: I saw both some entrepreneurial people, as well as slackers who were satisfied to suck the community teat, watch The Good, The Bad and the Ugly every afternoon on a little TV (powered by a small solar installation that was gifted for the purpose of providing light for the kids to study at night).

Within my potential pool of employees, I will have both slackers and those who would like to climb to a higher point on the food chain. I've already seen this disparity in the small amount of time I've been up there. Maria Victoria works hard, has a ready smile, keeps her kids clean and well dressed; her husband is a bum. That's not Nicaragua, that's the world in a nutshell.

To the extent that I identify the hustlers, treat them fairly and reward their hustle, I will succeed. I'm not looking for love . . ..

I would be bored stiff at Rancho Santana.

if u ever fly..

into liberia c.r. ..u see way more sets of golf clubs than u do surf boards..i have never seen a set of golf clubs at the airport here in mga..rumor tells me..if u dont get along with ure neighbors and workers..u can get run iff ure own property..

Not $500 Night

but at $65 probably quite profitable. I drove by this place but didn't stop in. It's quite a ways from the beach.


IMO these are far from the nicest beaches in Nicaragua, and it's reputedly a sporadically dangerous area for travel.

Beach Pic looks like it was taken from the second floor of Tres Hermanos.

As far as jobs are concerned, the Pellas idea is better

If you're doing the Nicaraguan equivalent of Circus Circus or The Sands, you've got better paying jobs because you've got entertainers, lighting technicians, store managers, the golf pros, the instructors for the gyml, the actors who do the dinner theatre, the pit boss and the dealers in the casinos, along with all the rest of the lower end tourist industry jobs.

And if it doesn't work, Pellas has at least hired a lot of people to build it. If it takes off, the money stays in Nicaragua for the most part (stage plays and musicians might be foreign).

The actual footprint for something like that is also smaller than the number of cheaper hotels that would be needed to bring in the same money.

This sort of place generates its own weather, so to speak. The rest of the country doesn't have to be entertaining. There are certainly other examples of this that have been successful for long periods of time -- Monaco, Las Vegas, hot springs and gaming resorts in Germany, Saratoga in New York (upstate NY near Albany is otherwise Northern Appalachia and not particularly prosperous).

The all inclusive resorts do have more to offer their workers than the small places with two desk clerks, some maids, a cook, and a waiter or two. None of those jobs pays all that well, and the people doing them are trivially replaceable. I also suspect that the bulk of Nicaraguan beach tourism is in the winter months, just as many of the people who bought into developments only live there in the winter.

Organized crime seems to have funded the casino and hotel development in Las Vegas: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Las_Vegas Its location is worse than Leon for climate in the summer. It was born as a train stop, but not every western train stop flourished like that.

Rebecca Brown


Its a resort, golf course and spa...not Circus Circus or The Sands, Vegas.


I think big

And I give free advice which is worth what anyone pays for it.

Rebecca Brown

I Remember Going

to see the " Pageant of the Corn" in Puerto Vallarta. Boat brings you across the bay at sunset, enough light to get seated in this outdoor amphitheatre, darkness settles, show begins, Indian maidens in brief costume (I think there might have been guys too, but don't remember, you'd have to ask Shelley), but actually quite well done . Afterwards, torch lit paths led to tables in the jungle where dinner was served, each table in its own private clearing. This was the old Taylor- Burton property I believe.

Bar on the boat going over and back.

Turtle hatching on the beach at Pochomil, baby turtles making their way to the ocean, followed by Usano and Nicaraguan tourists snapping pics. People paying that kind of money want to be entertained and pampered.

Perhaps a Sandinista - Contra re-enactment on the beach at Pellas, replete with all that music ?? And then the young, good-looking Sandinistas mingle with the guests, having their pics taken together . . . . . .


Viva La Revolution.

Puerto Vallarta

I got busted in Puerto Vallarta - for sleeping on the beach just south of town. It was too beautiful to miss; the countless, bright stars, the rhythmic surf, & a gentle tropical breeze lulled me into a sound sleep nestled by the infinite. Why sleep under a roof when the cosmos beckons? But once awake, I saw my car was gone. Strangely I felt liberated. Still, I hiked into town to report it stolen. Lo, there it was parked in front of the police station. They had hot-wired it. The chief had all my stuff in his office, tools, spare tires & books. He wanted to question me about my margin notes in Schroedinger's "Statistical Thermodynamics", but my Spanish was too poor then. He put me in jail for a few hours tho all my papers were in order. Concrete bunks, one with a Canadian. My next interview with the chief was short - he told me to leave town before noon. I did. Figured he watched too many cowboy flics. Never a bum, I always paid my way, but it was clearly the wrong place to practice one-man eco-tourism.

Apologies for the detour. As for the NY Times' article & mega-moneyed tourism in Nicaragua, the comment by libraryshortcake of Newton, MA, sums up my sentiments well.

A quote from that comment

"Although tourism and foreign investment, when done responsibly, create jobs, give back to the community, and help the local economy, this tends to play out as a modern form of colonialism. The wealthy foreigners become the owners, bosses, and profiteers, while the locals work as waitstaff, janitors and drivers."

That Pellas is doing this and the resort is more likely to keep the money in Nicaragua is a good thing. He's also more likely to hire Nicaraguans for management jobs.

Rebecca Brown

Unless you're Pellas' account ...

or his promoter, I'd say you're just exhaling.

But you or cupcakes

don't talk about....

"The wealthy foreigners" that risk their money, collect 15% IVA on every dollar they bring in, pay INSS on the employees, collect payroll taxes on staff over the tax free allowance, pay business taxes, personal taxes and local property taxes, have their own Corporate Responsibility Program and still get tapped up by every NGO on the drip for money...

But you and cupcakes go ahead, leave that part out.

NGOs are the spawn of Satan except when they're not

My opinion of NGOs is even lower. Mostly those things are about making a living for some white people who get paid to do something full time that wouldn't be cost effective at all if they weren't getting charity donations and free workers. And a few of them are out and out hustles -- pay no IVA, charge for bunks but don't contribute to Intur and don't keep records, and expect anyone who has a pension to chip in to pay for bogus training in permaculture (three weeks of seminars, even good seminars, isn't enough to qualify someone as a permaculture instructor.

As Cupcake said, tourism can be done well. Neither of us are denying that.

If you want a rant on NGOs, I'm good to go.

Rebecca Brown

Maybe cupcakes is one of these people


Although I have met a lot of them and 'cupcakes' doesn't spring to mind. Bread and butter pudding maybe.

Interesting that they take a lot of donations from the very businesses cupcakes complains about.

I Spent A Night

in the Mexicali slammer when I was much younger. I was locked up for my own protection, turned loose at first light. I don't remember too much, Tequila, and Tecate chasers. Cops were really friendly.

Mexicali was a lot smaller then, but it still took me two hours to find where I had left my car. Years later I heard this song, kind of described how I felt that morning:


Better read some of the protocols for photographing turtles

The guest article in Moon is good.

Some kids on the Sinai Peninsula near some pricy Red Sea resorts came up with an innovative way to extract money from tourists. They kidnap them and allow their interpreter to come along, too, and hold them for ransom while treating the tourists so well they don't file charges and feel like they came to understand the Bedouin better. Once the ransom is paid, they're free to go, and well fed. The kids call it "Taking Tourists on Safari."

The advantage of what Pellas is doing is that it very nicely corrals the tourists in a place that's not near people who don't want to hang out with them. People can make money off them, but they don't annoy anyone who isn't being paid to be annoyed, and where nobody else could steal their tourists.

Rebecca Brown