Costa Rica forum features improvements, environment


SAN JOSE, Costa Rica -- With visitor arrivals in Costa Rica having surpassed the 1 million mark in 1999, the country continues to earn its accolades as the darling of Central American tourist destinations.

And no market is more dear to Costa Rica than the U.S., which is the destination's leading producer of inbound visitors with 392,217 last year.

Travel agents, tour operators and meeting planners, the majority from the U.S., were among the 500 buyers and sellers who attended Expotur 2000, the country's leading forum to showcase its attractions and new products to the international travel industry.

This 16th annual trade show was held at the Herradura Hotel & Conference Center last month.

During a briefing prior to the trade show, the new Costa Rican minister of tourism, Walter Niehaus, pointed out that with local suppliers adding new tour products and international wholesalers expanding their travel offerings, "inbound tourism continues to grow at close to 10% annually."

This year, growth will be supported by a $6.2 million promotions budget.

According to Niehaus, the government is working hard to improve the country's infrastructure, especially airport facilities and road system quality.

Of particular importance to tourism development and traveler comfort is the long-awaited, $25 million airport terminal at Juan Santamaria Airport, due to go into operation in August.

The new terminal will have 11 gates (in contrast to the present terminal, which contains six), and the size of the current terminal's check-in areas will nearly double.

Resurfacing local roads and improving the signage is another government priority, and after several days of long-distance driving from San Jose to the Pacific coast and south to Quepos, as well as from the capital to Limon on the Caribbean, this Expotur delegate can attest to an almost miraculous improvement in the major roadways, even since last year.

A new feature on the Expotur 2000 schedule was a Circuits of Costa Rica program, offering travel industry delegates a choice of five pre-conference fam tours to different corners of the country.

The following regions were highlighted:

  • The Guanacaste region, located on the northwest Pacific coast, is known for its vast savannas, cattle ranches and dozens of beaches, many of which are being developed under the Gulf of Papagayo tourism project.
  • Clients are offered a wide variety of water sports such as sportfishing and surfing, all of which can be combined with visits to national parks such as Santa Rosa and Rincon de la Vieja.

  • The Central Pacific region boasts a rich biodiversity contained in its beaches and forests, highlighted by the flora and fauna of Manuel Antonio National Park and Punta Leona Private Reserve, the rich birdlife of the Carara Biological Reserve and the area's new attraction, the Rain Maker Nature Refuge.
  • The Central Northern region, a part of the country well known for the Poas and Arenal volcanoes and the biological reserves in Monteverde, now showcases a variety of new tourism facilities, such as the International Water Ski Center on Lake Arenal.
  • New attractions in the area include Sky Walk and Canopy tours.

  • The Caribbean region, nowadays viewed as the new frontier of Costa Rica tourism, is a region of lush vegetation, with tropical birds, monkeys and crocodiles that make themselves at home in the national parks of Tortuguero.
  • The parks feature a navigable system of canals and Cahuita, whose main attractions are white sands, miles of coconut groves and a coral reef.

    Tortuguero is well served by jungle lodges perched along the waterways, and there are many small, new inns along the Caribbean coast in and around Puerto Viejo.

  • The South Pacific region, an area that National Geographic magazine called "the most biologically intense place on earth," offers its visitors some of the most unspoiled rain forests in the world, including Corcovado.
  • Monkeys, scarlet macaws and orchids surround the jungle lodges and tented camps located mostly in the Osa Peninsula, and nature mixes easily with beaches and water sports around Golfo Dulce, Drake Bay and the Marenco lodging centers.

    Costa Rica Tourist Board
    Phone: (800) 343-6332

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