People can pay for a slushie with cryptocurrency in the streets of “bitcoin valley,” a project in the Honduran tourist enclave of Santa Lucia, through which the country has entered the digital currency trend.
The small town in the mountains, 20 minutes from the capital, Tegucigalpa, has become a bitcoin city.
Owners of businesses big and small are adapting to handle cryptocurrencies as payment, hoping to attract more tourism.
“It will open more opportunities and attract more people who want to use this currency,” said Cesar Andino, manager of the Los Robles shopping square.
The bitcoin valley project targets 60 businesses to initially get trained and adopt cryptocurrencies to market their products and services, expecting to spread these practices to more enterprises and nearby areas.
The initiative was jointly developed by the Blockchain Honduras organization, Guatemalan cryptocurrency exchange consortium Coincaex, the Technological University of Honduras and the Santa Lucia City Government.
“Santa Lucia’s community will be educated to use and manage cryptocurrencies, implementing them in different businesses in the region and generating crypto tourism,” said Ruben Carbajal Velazquez, a professor at the Technological University.
While some Latin American countries are exploring cryptocurrencies’ potential, there are risks.
In September last year, El Salvador adopted bitcoin as legal tender after introducing its own “bitcoin beach” in the surfing hot spot town of El Zonte.
The Central American country’s bet on bitcoin was hampered by a crypto market downturn, and skepticism from multilateral lenders and ratings agencies. Its publicly disclosed holdings of US$105 million are now worth about US$57 million.
To deal with volatility, the bitcoin valley project would “enable merchants to receive instant payments in the local currency, eliminating cryptocurrencies fluctuation risks,” Blockchain Honduras founder Leonardo Paguada said.
Critics of bitcoin’s expansion have warned that these kinds of operations might fuel money laundering and financial instability while enhancing the digital gap, as poorer residents might struggle to access the technology. (Reuters)