New tourism group seeks declaration of state of emergency

Members of a new, more aggressive tourism organization are meeting this morning at Gran Hotel Costa Rica in San José to press their smorgasbord of petitions to the government.

The group is pressing for a decree of a state of emergency for the tourism sector by the government.

Among other requests, the organization, ProTur, said in a release that it wants the immediate repeal of a Costa Rican law that assesses a 10 percent charge of restaurant meals as tips for the wait staff. Between the 10 percent mandatory tip and the 13 percent sales tax, diners pay 23 percent more for their food.

The organization also has come up with a number of financial proposals that would give them operating cash and keep banks and the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social off their backs. The group also wants a reduction in electrical rates and a system of joint purchasing to obtain benefits of bulk sales.

Boris Marchegiani, a central Pacific hotel operator, is the president of the organization. Members met before Easter with opposition legislators who were generally sympathetic.

Marchegiani noted that the industry faces hard times due to
the dollar-colon exchange rate, utility rates and government-imposed credit rules that sometimes keep hotel operators from getting loans. Although the government says tourism is up, the locations where tourists go are very specific, and most operators in this business say tourists are spending much less money.

Marchegiani also complained about a lack of effective representation of tourism operators in dealings with the government. The Cámera Nacional de Turismo has not responded to the complaints of the new organization. ProTur claims to have members from 500 operations.

Another request is a fund that would make loans to tourism operators with a payback delayed three years.

The group also wants the government to act to force banks to withdraw any judicial collection garnishments placed on tourism structures for payment defaults.

As to the emergency decree, the organization wants a mixed commission empaneled consisting of the president of the Asamblea Legislativa, the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo and tourism operators to analyze the possibility of doing that.

The firm has hired Kardayac Comunicaciones to promote its aims. The meeting today is at 10 a.m.

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