Costa Rica Grows to Meet Demand

Rising tourist arrivals prompt changes including new hotels, cruise facility upgrades

By: Mark Chesnut

If you want to gauge attitudes about Costa Rica’s tourism industry, ask Luis Argote, general manager of the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo, which is set to open in February.

“Costa Rica has a tremendous amount of potential,” Argote said. “It’s a country that is very proud of itself, and it has a lot to offer.

“And what I hear from tour operators is that tourism projections are going up 20 percent to 30 percent this year.”

For the first two months of this year, the government said that 11,000 more tourists arrived than during the same period last year. And in May, more than 280 suppliers attended Expotur, an annual convention organized by the Costa Rican Association of Tourism Professionals.

The Four Seasons being built on the Papagayo Peninsula is just one example of the latest wave of tourism development under way in the country, particularly in the northern province of Guanacaste.

The Four Seasons property will have 153 guestrooms and suites, 20 residential villas, almost 7,000 square feet of meeting space, a business center, restaurants, spa and health club, swimming pool and tennis courts.

The resort will also have an 18-hole golf course designed by Arnold Palmer, a children’s program and play pool, and a young-adults center.

Rack rates will start at $395, double occupancy, during the high season, and $290 for the low season, according to Argote.

Also set for expansion on Guanacaste’s coast is Hacienda Pinilla, a 4,500-acre development that already has villas, a hotel and beach houses, as well as an 18-hole golf course designed by Mike Young.

Negotiations are under way to construct two more hotel facilities and condominiums, which would bring the Hacienda Pinilla’s total room count to over 3,000.

Costa Rica has already expanded its capacity to receive cruises; on the Caribbean coast, Puerto Limon inaugurated a new terminal last December that allows simultaneous docking of two cruise ships.

Upgrades are also under way in the capital city of San Jose. Juan Santamaria International Airport is in the final stages of a construction and renovation project.

Downtown, San Jose’s city council and the Department of Culture, Youth and Sports have started an initiative to improve the appearance of the area around Second Avenue by upgrading walkways; local storekeepers are also expected to participate by maintaining or upgrading their facades.

The government hopes to expand the program to other neighborhoods.

The Bandera Azul Ecologica (Ecological Blue Flag) program this year has been extended to the interior of the country.

Nearly 50 towns and beaches have received the designation, including the first inland towns that are all near rivers or other bodies of water.

Under the program, an area’s water quality and waste treatment is monitored and must meet tough criteria.

The Costa Rican Tourism Institute has information about the status of specific destinations.