$35 million convention center will be another government boondoggle

The central government continues its efforts to build a convention center, an investment of some $35 million.

Spearheaded by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo, the center is supposed to generate more tourism for Costa Rica. We think it will be another white elephant.

The reason why private sources have not built such an ambitious project is because it would not be profitable. Certainly some hotels and restaurants in the vicinity of the Heredia location west of the capital will benefit.

But even for a 5 percent return, the government would need to generate $33,600 a week in income from the convention center. Considering the fact that the tourism institute and the central government could not market themselves out of a paper bag, the chances of this happening is not even slim.

Such convention centers have shown themselves to be white elephants in many U.S. communities. Certainly some with adjacent attractions, such as in Las Vegas, have shown themselves to be marginally beneficial.

What the government does not understand is that management and promotion are key to such ventures.

Yes, having a sprawling facility to house the conventions of national political parties would be great. But not profitable.

Much of this money will come from the tourism institute, the cash cow for several government projects.

A convention center is a business, not a real estate investment. The new stadium, donated by China, presents a similar situation. There are salaries and continual upkeep. And there is marketing.

The tourism institute has shown itself to be most inept at marketing. But everyone in the industry knows this and conducts individual marketing program.

Can anyone really see a weekly procession of conventions, perhaps two or three a week, out in Heredia.

If not, the convention center will be another financial disaster for a country that can ill afford another one.

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