High Season 2018 was the very best period for tourism in the history of Jicaro Lodge and Nicaragua. The country received endless international praise for its authentic travel experiences, and visitors flocked to Nicaragua to visit its unspoiled beaches, volcanoes and cultural landmarks, and to meet its friendly and upbeat people. Iberia had scheduled direct flights from Europe and there were also rumors about flights connecting New York City and Managua.
Hard to believe that within a few weeks, after April 18th, the country was consumed by civil unrest as an uprising of the people against the government ensued. Fortunately, none of the violence was directed at tourists and of course, our guests at Jicaro were always 100% safe on the island. However, in mid-May, it became increasingly difficult to navigate around the country as protesters built barricades to force the government to negotiate. This led us to temporarily suspend operations at Jicaro.
At the time the civil arrest started in April, we had 34 full-time employees. We tried hard to keep them all on our payroll but were forced to let half of them go by July. We kept a core staff of 17 that continued to provide maintenance to the island and its installations, and according to our General Manager Howard, “the island looks better than ever”.
This was a very difficult time for Karen Emanuel, the owner of Jicaro Island Lodge. She loves Nicaragua and its people, and if she could, she would “save” them all. Karen used her personal savings to maintain the core staff on the island, while some other members of the team traveled to Costa Rica and Panama to work at the sister Cayuga Collection Hotels and Lodges while Jicaro was closed.
We all pitched in. Everybody from accountants to marketing contractors decided to stay on “pro bono” to make it through this crisis. While other hotels like the iconic Mukul resort closed their doors indefinitely, we knew that we would open as soon as things calmed down.
The Road to Recovery
Calmer times have come. While there is still a need for dialogue, reconciliation, and justice before the political situation can be fully resolved, in order to support the people of Nicaragua – especially those who work in tourism, an industry that was devastated by the situation –, we have decided to reopen Jicaro as of November 15th. Even in the tensest moments of the crisis, we never lost hope and were amazed by the support of our former guests. We owe it to the staff at Jicaro and all of our suppliers to put them back to work and restore what was lost.
It is certain that we face an uphill battle. Despite being eased in the past weeks, travel warnings for Nicaragua are still in place, and it will take time for confidence to be rebuilt. The greatest challenge the country’s tourism industry faces is restoring the airlift from the US and increasing the frequency of flights into Managua. Meanwhile, other transport options include flying to Liberia in Costa Rica and then heading north by land transfer or with a Sansa Airlines flight. t
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