Minister sees convention center as a tourism business generator

Although the contract for the long-awaiting government convention center in Heredia is expected to be awarded within days, the tourism minister admits that the project is not in itself sustainable. The minister is Mauricio Ventura, who inherited the project when he took office. He compared the convention center to a bridge.

“Convention Centers are not money-making machines,” he said. “I compare them to a bridge. The building of a bridge does not 

Mauricio Ventura discusses the convention center.

Mauricio Ventura discusses the convention center.

provide profit by itself but helps connect one side to the other. In the same way, the convention center will connect business visitors to other tourism offers.”

The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo is investing $23 million of money raised from tourists for the project.  The Banco de Costa Rica and Banco National are putting up $12 million. And the total price is estimated to be about $35 million.  Three bids for the job have come in around that figure.

The project has been in the works since at least 2011. Honduras, Panamá and Guatemala also are building convention centers, according to press reports there. The tourism industry is counting on the center to generate more hospitality business.

Unlike bridges, convention centers require marketing and management, qualities that are not well represented in Costa Rica. Ventura said that the tourism institute is seeking to hire an international firm with experience in sales, marketing and operating this kind of business.

Ventura declined to provide the name of the firm, but he said that it is Latin American.  The consulting group will start working along the institute in about four weeks.  The group will be in charge of positioning the Costa Rica brand in international market.

The institute also is looking for the convention center to beef up the industry with business visitors in the low season.

The site is in Barreal de Heredia along the General Cañas autopista.  Plans call for a facility that will hold 4,500 persons.

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