Panama City - The seven smallest Latin American countries are gearing up for a tourist boom in the coming winter season despite the recent floods caused by Hurricane Stan.

At the recent Centroamerica Travel Market in Panama City, tour operators said the major tourist attractions, including Mayan cultural sites, historical cities and hotels, had been largely unaffected by the flooding.

Panama and Costa Rica were not affected by the hurricane while Honduras and Nicaragua reported only minor damage.

Especially the smaller countries like Nicaragua and Honduras have profited from joint marketing of the region which is being advertised worldwide under the slogan "tan pequena... tan grande" - so small... yet so big.

Costa Rica remains the main destination for European visitors followed by Guatemala. One of the issues discussed at the trade fair was safety and crime. Several operators have cancelled tours to Guatemala or changed travel schedules because of these concerns.

In the year 2004 the number of foreign visitors to the central American nations rose 16 per cent to 5,73 million.

"We are heading for another record," said the president of the Central American Tourism Agency (CATA), Angela San Miguel.

During the first seven months of this year the figure was up another 15 per cent. Most of the visitors come from neighbouring Latin American countries. Five per cent were from European countries. - Sapa-dpa