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PR in Guatemala – Our Story

Any international company wishing to thrive in the market can benefit from working with a Guatemala PR agency that understands the unique cultural idiosyncrasies of the country, but also has an international perspective.

Whether you are a consumer brand, business services provider or a disruptive tech start-up, Sherlock Communications is a unique among PR agencies in Guatemala in offering an award-winning team that combines local insight and media contacts, besides decades of international experience.

Whether it’s media relations, social and digital media, influencer campaigns, performance marketing or inbound lead generation, Sherlock’s Guatemalan team has a proven track record of delivering great results for international clients, from disruptive tech companies to blue-chip brands.

Market Overview

Guatemala is the largest economy in Central America, with a recorded GDP of USD 75.7 billion in 2017 and an average growth rate of 3.6%, predicted to continue to 2023 according to IMF estimates, making it one of the most stable in the Latin America region.

It is also the most populous country with a population of 16.9m inhabitants and GDP per capita of USD 4,472. One of its main advantages is geographical access to Mexico and, via the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), trading access to the US and Canada. In the long term, Guatemala has the potential to be a major hub of supply chain companies, particularly due to the help of the recently launched customs union between Guatemala and Honduras.

Agriculture predominates, accounting for 23% of GDP and 75% of all exports and Guatemala is reliant on traditional exports such as coffee. Manufacturing is centred on light assembly and food processing whereas tourism and the export of textiles, along with non-traditional agricultural products such as fruit and cut flowers are increasingly important.

During the second half of the 20th century a protracted civil war pitted the urban elite, supported by the US, against guerrillas in the rural communities who were in turn supported by the Soviet Union. The war ended with a peace agreement in 1996 and since then, Guatemala has pursued macroeconomic stabilisation with reforms that have attracted foreign investment, including successful privatisations.

In recent times, Guatemala has gained an international reputation for the fight against corruption and as public protests grew in 2015, a political newcomer, Jimmy Morales was elected President.

The Media Landscape

Guatemala has four major newspapers: Prensa Libre, El Periódico, Siglo XXI, which are all morning publications—and La Hora, an afternoon paper. Also published is one minor daily tabloid, the more sensational Nuestro Diario, as well as two weekly publications, Critica and Crónica. All except Crónica are independent.

The major independent newspapers regularly criticise the government as well as the military and other powerful segments of Guatemalan society. They have been able to publish reports on alleged government corruption and/or drug trafficking, using sources such as human rights groups, clandestine intelligence or left-leaning organisations like the news agency CERIGUA, or the Centro para la Defensa de la Libertad de Expresión (Center for the Defense of Freedom of Speech).

Both Critica and Crónica were historically equally independent, but Crónica became the target of an advertising boycott in 1998 and was forced to sell to a conservative owner. By 2002, it was reflecting the new owner’s right-wing philosophy, while Critica continued to be critical of the government.

Additionally, there is the English-language daily The Guatemalan Post, as well as the oldest surviving newspaper in Central America, the Diario de Centro America. However, in the first decade of the twenty-first century, Diario de Centro America was a semi-official paper that reported legal news only and has lacked the readership of many other papers.

Foreign news agencies active in Guatemala include Reuters and the Associated Press, as well as agencies from Spain, Germany, France, Mexico, the United States and Canada.

There are 26 TV stations, with the content deriving from one of four major outlets: Canal 3, Canal 7Televisiete, Canal 11, and Canal 13. All are located in Guatemala City, from where all media—print and electronic— originates. The government also owns other channels, Canal 21 and for the military, Canal 5. Radio broadcasters number approximately 600 stations.

Guatemala has 7.2 million internet users, approximately 42% of the population. Among these, 6,8 million use Facebook, mostly accessing via smartphones. The country has 18. Million mobile subscriptions.

The Economy

Guatemala has the largest population of any Central American country with a GDP per capita roughly one-third of Brazil’s. According to World Bank data, Guatemala’s economy grew by 2.9% in 2016, 4.1% in 2015 and 4.2% in 2014. GDP growth for 2017 was approximately 3.2%. Despite the constant growth of the economy, inequality does remain a challenge, with 59.3% of the its people living in poverty, as recorded in 2014. The unemployment rate was 2.6% in 2017, however, informal economic activity accounts for at least 70% of the workforce, meaning less than 30% of workers are fully covered by social security regulations.

There is also a low minimum wage of USD 400 per month, not enough to cover basic consumer goods which are valued at USD 500 and inflationary pressures are likely to increase in with food and oil prices rising. Inflation increased to 37% in 2016.

Export-wise, Guatemala has shifted from being a raw materials and traditional agriculture commodities exporter, including sugar, coffee, beef products, cardamom and bananas at 25% of exports, to become one of the most diversified exporters in Latin America. Non-traditional products such as textiles/apparel and light manufacturing are now sent to more than 140 countries globally. Total exports in 2017 were USD 11bn.

The country does however remain vulnerable to external shocks, mostly because of its over-dependence on the US economy which means any economic slowdown in the US, Guatemala’s principal trading partner, will reduce demand for exports and place pressure on a government already struggling to finance additional food and fuel imports.

The country is also reliant on remittances from Guatemalan citizens living in the US. In 2016, remittances from the US were around USD7.27m, a 16% increase from 2015, with Guatemala receiving the 2nd highest number of remittances of any country in Latin America, accounting for in the region 12% of GDP.

Guatemala has an open investment regime which guarantees national treatment for foreign investment which is governed by the Foreign Investment Act. Foreign investors are allowed to participate in almost all economic activities, without any quantitative limitations with restrictions limited to the ones established in the country’s Constitution; for example, the exploitation of forestry or maritime resources.

Going forward, the Guatemalan government aims to expand its energy and extractive sectors, which currently are relatively undeveloped. According to further data from the World Bank, the flow of foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2015 was USD 1.18bn, a slight increase on the USD 1.17bn received in 2014. The Guatemalan Central Bank (Banguat) forecasted FDI to reach around USD 1.19bn in 2016.

The government is also implementing tools to more easily enable doing business in the country, including reducing time and therefore costs to set up a business, introducing online systems to open them, facilitating credit and working on regional integration, among others. Overall, the country’s level of imports of goods and services has continued to increase.

By 2017, the direct contribution of Travel & Tourism to GDP was USD: 2,208.8mn, 2.9% of the country’s and this is forecast to rise by 4.5% in 2018, further to by 4.0% pa to USD9,325.6mn, – 8.6% of GDP – in 2028. In 2017, the Travel & Tourism industry directly supported 166,000 jobs, 2.6% of total employment and this is also expected to rise by 4.5% in 2018, to 3.3% per annum and create 239,000 jobs – 2.7% of total employment – in 2028. Visitor exports generated USD 1,576.6m, which accounts for 9.5% of total exports in 2017, whereas investment in the sector in 2017 was USD 830.9m. This is expected to rise by 1.9% in 2018 and by 4.4% pa over the next ten years to USD1,302.2mn in 2028 – a rise by 9.1%.

Tourism has therefore become one of the main drivers of the economy and is growing. Guatemala receives about two million tourists every year and is visited by cruise ships from all over the world.

The Capital – Guatemala City

With a population of 2.918 million, Guatemala City, Spanish Guatemala or in full Ciudad de Guatemala, the capital of Guatemala is the largest city in Central America and the political, social, cultural and economic centre of the country.

In addition to the government offices and services concentrated there, Guatemala City handles nearly half of the capital invested in the country and accounts for more than half of the industrial establishments and production of the republic. It is the focus of highway, rail, and air transport and is the commercial and banking centre of the country.

Guatemala City also dominates the cultural life of the country. It is the seat of the principal faculties of the San Carlos University of Guatemala; the major institutions for artistic, commercial, vocational, and military education; the Society of Geography and History; and several important museums.

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If you would like to learn more about PR in Guatemala, find out how Sherlock Communications can help you meet your business objectives in Guatemala or simply have an informal chat do call or drop us a line:

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+55 11 3817 5852

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