Costa Rica EXPOTUR

Medical tourism, particularly dental and cosmetic surgery, will be getting a stronger push in the US

By: By Patricia Alisau

EXPOTUR Exhibit // (c) Patricial Alisau
An exhibit at EXPOTUR in San Jose,
Costa Rica of traditional folk dress
© Patricia Alisau
Costa Rica plans to focus most of its $14 million promotion budget on the US, it’s biggest market, to offset any fallout from the US’s sagging economy, said minister of tourism, Carlos Ricardo Benevides, during the recent EXPOTUR travel trade show in the capital of San Jose. However, the numbers are still healthy, he added, reporting that “US tourism in the last decade grew to 14 million compared to 4.5 million the previous decade.” In addition, Costa Rica has been ranked number one in Latin America for its competitiveness in tourism and fourth in the world by the World Economic Forum. EXPOTUR is an annual event sponsored by the Association of Travel Professionals and Costa Rica Tourism Board.

Medical tourism, particularly dental and cosmetic surgery, will be getting a stronger push in the US, Benevides said, and new travel packages will make it easier to book them. This is in addition to the country’s traditional ecotourism appeal. To manage sustainable tourism growth, a new Master plan for the fast-growing Guanacaste Peninsula restricting hotel height and density is in place and similar guidelines will be drawn up for other coastal areas.  “We shouldn’t be the victim of our own success. We want to be the first country to be carbon neutral by 2020.”

Among the show’s exhibitors was the new Veragua adventure park, a privately-owned rain forest partially financed by the Nature Conservancy and Conservation International. Officially opening July 4, the $5 million project will be handy for cruise ship passengers debarking at Puerto Limon, owners said. The $65 entrance fee will give visitors a guided tour and lunch plus access to a welcome center, live snake, frog, insect and butterfly exhibits, a hummingbird park and walking trails with waterfalls. A canopy tour via zip line and open-air gondolas are other facilities and most of the park is wheelchair accessible. Travel agent commissions start at 20 percent.

In other announcements, Hilton recently planted its flag on a 222-room Doubletree Cariari by Hilton in San Jose, a 314-room Doubletree in Puntarenas, a 202-room Hilton in Guanacaste and a 202-room Hilton in Papagayo with plans for a future Hilton Garden Inn in Liberia. The first Hyatt opens in Brazilito next year in November with 350 rooms, Marriott is building a 300-room property in Tamarindo and the country’s first Mandarin is under negotiation for Papagayo.

Among the new options for visitors heading to the Caribbean coast by road from San Jose are convenient chocolate, farm and tropical flower tours along the way.