Roatan’s Beauty, Truth & Wisdom

Continuous Rebranding of Honduras

You could say the first official tourist in Honduras was Christopher Columbus who arrived here in 1502 on his fourth voyage to the Americas. Columbus was more of a business tourist: his visit didn’t last long and he visited only Guanaja and Punta Castilla. While his visit was brief his insight was profound. Columbus came up with a slogan that remains this Central American country’s best descriptor and has given it its identity: Honduras – “deep waters.” For the past four decades the Honduran Ministry of Tourism has worked alongside contracted marketing agencies to improve upon Columbus’ genius.

President Maduro’s “One small country, three big worlds” slogan just wasn’t working. In 2008 on her visit on Roatan, Paola Bonilla, Honduran Minister of Tourism announced a new slogan and said that the slogan was the result of “years of work and studies aimed at choosing a phrase that summed up the national identity.” The result: “Todo Esta Aqui” or “It’s all here in Honduras.” This slogan lasted eight years. Then Honduras yet again went looking for its identity. The result was different, but arguably an improvement: “Somos para ti.” “We are Land and Sea; We are People; We are heart; We are for you.” The tax payer bill for this insight? I dare not speculate.

Honduras is not alone. Most countries now have ministries of tourism. At taxpayer expense, consultants and marketing firms spend countless hours at the behest of the government developing and implementing campaigns to communicate “the essence” of their county’s identity.

You don’t need a ministry of something or other to tell you about your identity

Panama invested millions to figure out it is “Where the World Meets,” and the phase has done Panama well. The most well branded country of the region: Costa Rica also has the best slogan. It works, it’s catchy and they have no plans of letting it go:“Costa Rica – no artificial ingredients.

Nicaragua saved some money and research and called itself simply “Unique,” and it certainly is. El Salvador went simply with “Impressive.” Belize’s slogan is “Mother’s Nature best kept secret,” and in 2006 Guatemala launched its campaign “Soul of the Earth.”

Even the US, managing to function without a ministry of tourism, has come up with a slogan, although a weak one: “All within your reach,” a bit ironic for the many people getting their visa applications rejected at the US embassies.

Even Roatan felt it needed to define itself. Mayor Dorn Ebanks decided Old Roatan wasn’t good enough and gave us “New Roatan.” He only lasted one term and the future of the catchphrase doesn’t look good either. There is a theory about the wisdom of crowds. When asked to estimate number of jelly beans in a jar or a weight of a cow, the average of hundreds of people’s guesses comes amazingly close to the truth, much closer to truth than the estimate of a single jelly bean or cow expert. Recently Roatanians decided to create their own branding phase and pay for it themselves. Gigantic “ I ♡ Roatan,” “I ♡ Roa” signs seem be spontaneously popping up all over the island – at no cost to the taxpayer.

Indeed maybe you don’t need a ministry of something or other to tell you about your identity. Maybe you need an explorer like Columbus, or a crowd of business owners and locals to come up with a viable name, phrase and a look.

Also, perhaps the key part of any successful country branding strategy is constancy. So let me suggest: let’s stick to something and let’s go back to the roots. And if a new slogan for Honduras is needed I have one: “Honduras – really deep.”