The development of a canal project to rival – indeed exceed – the significance of the Panama Canal would transform the remote tourism destination of Nicaragua into a hub of global trade, overseeing the transit of supertankers too large for the Panama Canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Three times as long and twice as deep as its predecessor in Panama, it would completely transform Nicaragua’s economy, identity and standing on the world stage.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the canal took place on 22 December 2015, but by most accounts today cows stand where the excavators should be, as claims abound that the backer’s wealth has diminished, that the shipping industry doesn’t require a new canal, and that the whole scheme was merely a ploy to exert pressure on the government in Panama.
The same cannot be said of the benefit ongoing infrastructure and transportation links are having elsewhere in Nicaragua. The country is hard at work building a transit framework to enable the flow of traffic and, as follows, the potential visitors and of large-scale business events.
The coastal highway running southwards from Costa Rica north to Pochomil is being built, the Panamerican highway that links from Managua to the country’s second city, Leon, was improved two years ago, and the 9.5km Pista Juan Pablo II route is being widened by three lanes to reduce congestion.
For evidence of the international interest in getting such infrastructure in place, look no further than the bodies helping to fund the latter of those projects. The Managua upgrade is costing nearly US$256m, funded jointly by the European Investment Bank and the Nicaraguan Government, as well as a US$107.5m loan from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI).
But what good are roads without destinations? Here, too, Nicaragua now hopes to appeal to property developers from the convention and hotel industry. A US$25m investment into Managua’s Olof Palme Convention Center recently added 3,000sqm to the city’s total capacity for events of 14,000sqm.
Business events will play their role in assisting Nicaragua’s potential growth. But first it needs the infrastructure, the space for events and the hotels to support them, and to tie it all together and go to market as an efficient convention bureau.
Canal or no canal, Nicaragua appears to be an emerging destination with huge investment potential.