Tourism operators say that the year has been a good one so far

North American travel businesses represented at the Expotur 2014 are boasting of strong financial starts this year within Costa Rica. United Airlines, Four Seasons Hotels, National Car Rental, and TripAdvisor are some of the companies present at the annual tourism fair, which opens its doors to the public this weekend at the Hotel Wyndham San José Herradura.

During Thursday’s kickoff session intended for the industry, optimistic representatives from these popular tourist brands said revenues made in Costa Rica continue to boom. Luis Salas, a reservations manager for the Four Seasons in Papagayo, said the resort has been generating heavy profits recently.

“Fortunately, business is going very well,” Salas said. “Our first and second quarter numbers were really strong this year.”

In Latin America, Four Seasons has a resort in Argentina and two in Mexico in addition to the Costa Rica location, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

It was around 10 years ago, too,  that business for United Airlines was not so booming, said Gleyston Calvo. On top of the psychological hangover from Sept. 11, 2001, that kept people from flying, Calvo said there was much more limited access into Costa Rica. Now, the United sales executive said, most major airline companies are making money from flying to and from the country.

“There’s enough for everyone at all the airlines to get a slice of the pie,” he said.

Calvo added that 2014 has been especially good for business as an extended winter made North Americans dream of sunny getaways. He said there are usually four flights per day on weekdays during this time of year, and that each one of them has remained consistently filled, partly because of Costa Rica’s security standing compared to its Central American neighbors.

“We are bringing a lot of tourism to Costa Rica,” Calvo said. “It’s kind of an unsafe country, but if you compare it to the other countries, it looks pretty safe.”

Making up the stalls of Expotur are hundreds of hotel resorts, tour companies, transport services, coffee brands, and location representatives. An Expotur public relations estimates is that Expotur is responsible for attracting up to 100,000 tourists each year. They invest more than $90 million into Costa Rica.

As a result of the first day, according to the Expotur staff, more than 2,500 business meetings have already been coordinated.

The new tourism minister, Wilhelm von Breymann, roamed around the different exhibits Thursday, greeting and talking with the different company representatives. As a businessman in Costa Rica’s tourism industry, Breymann has a familiarity with the country’s tourist companies. He said the government should establish a competitive tourism advisory board to continue developing upon the all-important sector.

Yadrya Simón, president of the Asociación Costarricense de Profesionales en Turismo, said before the fair that Expotur marks the biggest opportunity for tourism negotiations and deals. Her organization sponsors the event, now in its 30th year.

“It’s the most important platform for capitalizing on the wide offering of diverse products and tourism services that we have in the country,” Ms. Simón said. “And it’s a model that has facilitated the product chains and economic turnover for 30 years without interruption.”

By Michael Krumhioltz
of the  A.M. Costa Rica staff

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