A small tourist town in Honduras has begun accepting Bitcoin (BTC) payments as part of the Bitcoin Valley initiative designed to increase tourism revenue across 60 local businesses.
Some locals of Santa Lucia, like shopping mall owner Cesar Andino, expect the initiative to open up more opportunities for shops in the area and “attract more people who want to use this currency,” according to a report from Honduran news outlet La Prensa. Andino added:
“Accepting Bitcoin will allow us to open another market and win more customers. We have to globalize. We cannot close ourselves off from technology, and we cannot be left behind when other countries are already doing it.”
The program started on Thursday, allowing patrons of local area shops to pay with United States dollars, Honduran Lempira or Bitcoin.
Santa Lucia’s municipal government developed the Bitcoin Valley program in conjunction with the Coincaex crypto exchange, Blockchain Honduras and the Technological University of Honduras.
Coincaex is providing the equipment and services needed to perform crypto payments, while Blockchain Honduras is providing education on the use of crypto wallets.
La Prensa explained that although customers can pay for goods and services in BTC, they will be sending the coins to the Coincaex exchange. The exchange then instantly sends the value of the BTC in Lempira to the merchant to help them avoid loss from price volatility. Therefore, business owners do not directly receive BTC as payment under this scheme.
Local business owners hope the Bitcoin Valley will re-spark tourism spending in the tropical coastal country after taking a major hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. Honduras enjoyed about $556 million in annual tourism spending in 2019 before plummeting more than 66% in 2020 to $189 million according to data from Macrotrends, a global economic tracker.
Honduras joins a small handful of countries in the region that have launched similar programs for people to legally pay for goods and services with cryptocurrency.
El Salvador famously adopted BTC as legal tender in 2021 and rolled out a nationwide effort to educate residents on its utility. It has launched a similar Bitcoin Beach tourist attraction in the town of El Zonte.
Guatemala has its Bitcoin Lake initiative at tourism sites around Lake Atitlan in the Sierra Madre Mountains. Mayor Cesar Piedrasanta of Panajachel in the region has also been mining BTC with energy that he says would otherwise be unused and wasted.