A private-public coalition against underage prostitution has been running a secret Web site to entrap foreigners. That was the revelation Wednesday at a press conference in Casa Presidencial.
The Web site, UnforgettableCostaRica.com, offers young girls at a free hotel and encourages the Web user to click again. The next page says that the free hotel is prison and that sexual relations with youngsters is illegal.
The promotion is the product of the ad agency Garnier BBDO, which took over the domain name in January. The Fundación Paniamor and the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo also are involved.
The agency placed fake ads in various sex tourism sites and posted an alluring link on Google. Sponsors say some 3,000 persons have been attracted to the Web site. Sponsors said that they are harvesting the names of the countries from which visitors come. Some news reports said that the Web site was collecting user names, but that is unlikely.
The site has a very modest 9,182,470 rank in the Alexa statistical base. The Amazon.com company keeps track of most Web sites and only shows one bilingual Costa Rican Web adult site linking to UnforgettableCostaRica.
The press conference is getting more publicity than the Web site, and news stories are showing up in countries as distant as India.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation set up a Web site sting in 2007 in which potential sex tourists were offered taboo
trips to Costa Rica. They were given a menu with age ranges that includes supposed partners well under 15, the legal age of consensual sex in Costa Rica. Several would-be tourists were taken off planes in Miami and to jail for falling for the sting that many defense lawyers said was entrapment.
The federal law enforcement agency halted the project abruptly after its connection was publicized. In addition, some observers said then that the Web site actually was encouraging trips by tourists looking for underage sex.
Expats probably will not be able to see the entire Unforgettable Web site. Access by Costa Rican visitors appears to be restricted.
The online Wayback Machine shows that the UnforgettableCostaRica domain once was owned by a legitimate travel agency here and later offered messages in Japanese.
The word unforgettable is frequently associated with Costa Rican trips, and is what one online reviewer called a trip to the Hotel Riu Guanacaste.
The legal age for prostitution in Costa Rica is 18. A.M. Costa Rica has continued to dismiss claims of wholesale underage sex tourism by foreigners and says emphasis there takes away from the serious problems of homegrown pedophiles.