Opinion: El Salvador’s state of exception is not affecting tourism. But, should you be worried when visiting?

By Eddie Galdamez  |  May 10th, 2022
El Salvador Tourism
El Salvador Tourism.

In late March 2022 and in response to a spike in Homicides, the Salvadoran Government enacted a state of exception that restricted a few constitutional guarantees.

The actions taken by the government have caused condemnation by many local and international Human Rights organizations. However, the latest survey shows that over 90% of Salvadorans approve of the state of emergency.

Is the state of exception affecting tourism and tourists? No, the emergency state of exception has not affected tourism to El Salvador. In fact, the Salvadoran tourism industry seems to be increasing as it feels more secure.

An important indicator that tourism has not been affected was the number of local and international tourists the country received during the Holy Week or Easter week.

The Holy Week is one of the most visited times in El Salvador; it landed during the state of exception.

Surfing in El Salvador x
Surfing in El Salvador

This emergency measure was in full force during the Easter celebrations; however, it didn’t discourage people from attending religious events or heading to tourist locations.

According to Morena Valdez, the Salvadoran Minister of Tourism, the number of visitors to the country increased during the Easter holidays.

The number of visitors to our country quadrupled. The majority opted for beaches and mountains.” Morena Valdez. Salvadoran Minister of Tourism.

Also, according to the Ministry of Tourism, El Salvador broke its own internal tourism goal during Holy Week.

Government officials expected 194,000 local tourists during the summer holidays. However, more than 400,000 Salvadorans visited beaches, lakes, rivers, volcanoes, and mountains.

Why isn’t the state of exception affecting tourism?

There is no clear picture of why the state of exception is not affecting tourism. However, one popular hypothesis is that many people visiting El Salvador have been there before.

People that have been to the country before know that tourist locations have extra security and are considered safer; even before the security state of exception.

Those who have never been to El Salvador might be more worried or affected by what they see on the news.

Also, locals know that they could only be affected by the state of exception if they have gang associations or have criminal records.

It is essential to point out that the arrests and the images seen on television happen in specific areas. As a tourist, the chances of you getting into these areas are small.

Should you be worried when visiting during the state of exception?

The security measure was initially put in place on March 27 for 30 days; it was extended for another 30 days on April 24.

Also, many public officials have already made statements expressing that this measure could be extended even longer. So, the state of exception could be in effect for a long time

So, should you be worried when visiting during the state of exception? The answer is no! Tourist locations in El Salvador are safer than those affected by the state of exception.

However, if you have tattoos related to gangs or that it could resemble those used by gang members, then you should be worried.

Also, if you plan to visit non-tourist locations considered gang territories, you should take precautions.

El Salvador Beach
Crowded beach during the State of Exception. Image by Diario El Salvador

The state of exception enacted by President Bukele was necessary and is producing good results. Furthermore, this emergency measure is not affecting tourism or tourist.

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