Ad-venture Capital: 3 free ideas for Nicaragua
Ok, all you adventure travelers, has this happened to you? You’re exploring a new place and you desperately want something (a meal that won’t take an hour but isn’t fried street food, a bus ride that isn’t packed like sardines to your next destination, a non-ugly hat to replace the one you lost, something interesting to do at night that doesn’t involve another bar) but you can’t find it – or at least not within your budget. Now I know, some of these inconveniences end up being the best parts of a trip – but lets be honest, you CAN reach a fried food and packed bus limit (at least if you’re over 25).
Most popular tourist places have figured these things out. But if you’re traveling through Central America, especially Nicaragua, there are still a lot of opportunities waiting to happen in the tourist business. When traveling around the country, I often think of little business ideas that someone could grab a hold of and make money – not just things for tourists, but things that middle and upper class Nicaraguans would pay for too.
For example, a small camping goods store in Esteli and a few other towns would make a killing. So many backpackers come up north and realize that they’re missing sturdy boots, a rain jacket, quick-dry underwear, extra-long shoelaces, or an eco-friendly journal for their poetic inspirations. The backpacker set (which seem to be the majority of tourists in Nicaragua) don’t want a hat with a huge toucan or a T-shirt with a fluorescent chicken.
And check out this vintage movie theater in Esteli. How fantastic would it be to fix this up and show a mix of movies? Afternoon matinee for the kids, evening feature in Spanish for the adults, 9PM cult classic in English or French for the backpacker/volunteer set. This being Esteli, you would probably have to include a cigar menu with your food offerings.
And on our trip to the island of Ometepe (pictures to come) the roads were spotted with tourists hoping to hitchhike with us in our car. Taxis were few and far between and bus service seemed to be at a standstill. A fleet of 2-3 microbuses that just circled the island in a loop, and even charged $1 (which is about 10 times what the local buses cost) would be hugely popular.
I obviously haven’t taken the time to prepare a business plan for these ideas. If I did, I might figure out why people aren’t doing them. Maybe importing costs for camping goods are too high to make a profit? I already know that electricity and gas are extremely expensive in Nicaragua, which would make the theater and bus ideas difficult. Credit might be a problem too.
But I still argue that there are untapped business opportunities in the tourism industry. Too many establishments just copy things they see are working (really, ANOTHER churrasco restaurant within a mile) instead of finding the gap and filling it. As diplomats we’re not allowed to buy property or have business interests in the country we’re serving in – so these ideas are off the table for me. I hope somebody out there grabs them.
Just in case disclaimer: I have absolutely no idea who owns this movie theater nor should my ramblings be taken as any sort of assurance or promise of anything. You’re on your own folks.