Solís promises to end under-the-table deals in tourism industry

Even though Costa Rica still leads the way in tourism over its Central American neighbors, Luis Guillermo Solís insists that the profitable sector can improve under his watch.

The presidential candidate met with the Cámara Costarricense de Hoteles Monday to answer questions and lay out his administration’s blueprint for making the country’s tourism industry even more competitive.

“We believe tourism is one of the most important issues to address for this country,” said the Partido Acción Ciudadana candidate. “It’s a small country. However it has the ability to attract a lot of people.”

Solís laid out a few goals that will need to be met in order to boost tourism numbers. A better economy, more efficient transactions between public and private sectors, improved management with less corruption, and advanced treatment of water and energy were listed among his top priorities.

“We have a responsibility to bring tourism to an even stronger level,” Solís said.

Rubén Pacheco, current president of the Cámara and former minister of Turismo, gave a powerpoint presentation to Solís and a small audience of his supporters and press members. Costa Rica generates over a quarter of the tourism arrivals in the region, but numbers have dropped since 2008 and the economic tailspin.

Solís blamed recent backwards steps on poor infrastructure and governmental neglect. According to him, there has been too much money going under the table and not enough set aside for developing the industry’s investments. “We can be a responsible government,” he said. “We will fight against this corruption.”

He pointed out a priority on cultivating more successful communication between governmental agencies and private tourism-based companies. In using a spaghetti bowl as an analogy, he said such a necessary collaboration is not possible without all its essential ingredients. This additional support, Solís added, will increase jobs throughout the country, especially for the somewhat marginalized demographics of women and children.

Costa Rica has recently dipped to 47th internationally in terms of travel and tourism competitiveness, according to the World Economic Forum. Guidelines for the rankings include regulation, state of businesses and infrastructure, and availability of human, cultural, and national resources.

Panamá moved up to the 37th slot,jumping over Costa Rica in the most recent index.

The neighbor to the south provides a cheaper alternative for traveling, but continues to undergo problems with its water and environmental provisions.

“I love Panamá, and I respect Panamá,” Solís said. “But its environmental treatment has been one of the worst.”

He reassured the crowd that under his administration Costa Rica would continue to live up to its billing as an environmentally focused destination, saying water and electric are fundamental areas to improve.

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