Group of tourism operators seeks to correct woes

A group of tourism operators plans to meet at the legislature today to promote changes in the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo and encourage a private promotional arm for the industry. The organization calls itself ProTur, and it promises solutions to the problems in the tourism sector.

Among other woes, the group, in an email message, said that the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social is one such problem, as well as high rates from the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad for telephone service, income taxes and water rates.

“It’s time that we are a voice and demand better conditions,” the organization said.

The gathering at the legislature’s Salon de Ex-Presidentes is set for 2 p.m. The meeting seems to be the latest action in an effort to reform the tourism institute and move forward with a piece of proposed legislation that would tighten up the rules for tourism service providers.

Such efforts have been going on for years. There are continual complaints about the marketing efforts by the tourism institute. The current downturn in tourism only generates more complaints.

As long ago as 2003 some lawmakers tried to create a private promotional arm for tourism modeled along the lines of the Promotora del Comercio Exterior de Costa Rica or ProComer, which promotes the country’s exports. In fact, ProComer now is promoting medical tourism.

ProTur in its email message warned that those in tourism are subject to the 1996 law that mandates equal access for the disabled. The message said that tourism operators have to have a lifeguard on duty if they have a swimming pool and that they also need to have a sign language interpreter on staff.

The 1996 law seems to require at least the interpreter. Article 50 of the law says that public and private institutions have to guarantee that the information directed to the public is accessible to all persons. However, Article 51 says that television shows, public or private, have to have interpreters, too. This rule seems to be followed only by governmental agencies.

Article 54 in a very general way says that cultural, sports and recreational activities should be accessible to all persons, but it does not address specifically lifeguards.

This law, No. 7600, is the same one that requires disabled access to places of public accommodation and new construction.

The proposal to reform the tourism institute, No.17163, is in a legislative committee.

Among other things, the measure would assess a $15 head tax on all foreign tourists instead of just on those who arrive by air, as is now the case.

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