Honduras' reputation for political instability and poverty has long kept tourist numbers low. In recent years, however, more and more people have begun to discover the lure of its northern coast, from the relatively intact culture of the indigenous Garifuna community, to the scenic beauty of its mountain-flanked beaches. Social problems from the past persist, and new development has damaged the rain forest and offshore reefs, but the region continues to make inroads into community-based, small-scale tourism––progress that perhaps contributed to this destination's five-point improvement over last year's score.
Here is a representative sampling of additional anonymous comments from the panelists. They are not necessarily the views of the National Geographic Society:
"Tourism development ranges from overbuilt large resorts to community-based ecotourism efforts at the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve and Pico Bonito. Local residents sometimes benefit from tourism development, but there is room for improvement."
"Honduras' north coast faces social problems related to the marginalization of Garifuna people and environmental problems related to poor solid waste management. The destination has a distinct character that is worth preserving."
"The northern coast needs a coastal management plan. Inappropriate tourism development is seriously compromising its environmental and ecological quality. AIDS/HIV is a serious problem amongst the coastal populations—especially the Garifuna."
"The aesthetic appeal is wonderful, but conservation needs to be taken more seriously."