WITH the goal of promoting theuntamed natural wonders of the country’sSouthern Zone, the Osa Chamber ofTourism (CATUOSA) will hold its eighthannual EXPO-OSA Tourism Exchange onJuly 15 at the Radisson Hotel in San José.EXPO-OSA is one of the country’slargest regional tourism fairs. The eventaims to give the Osa Peninsula’s tourismproviders an opportunity to meet withCosta Rican travel agencies and foreigntourism wholesalers – agencies that createpackage tours – and promote the region asa destination.“The main objective is to attract all ofCosta Rica’s travel agencies,” explainedLuis Centeno, president of CATUOSA.“Our goal is to provide them with thegreatest amount of information possible onour region. We want to be taken intoaccount by tourists when they decide whatthey will do and where they will go duringtheir Costa Rican vacation.”KNOWN for its lush rain forests,remote beaches and diverse wildlife, theSouthern Zone and the Osa Peninsula inparticular are often referred to as the lastfrontier of Costa Rican tourism.Although the area is harder to get tothan other parts of the country, mosttourists who have experienced its breathtakinglandscapes agree it is well worth thelong journey.“Basically, it’s an opportunity to showour product to the largest amount of travelagencies possible,” explained GerardoTovar, owner of the Marenco Lodge, theregion’s largest hotel. “It’s also an opportunityto work alongside the chamber to presentthe zone as a tourist destination. Themore we promote the zone, the greater thebenefits will be for all of us.”CENTENO is confident this year’sevent will be the largest EXPO-OSA todate. Interest in Osa has been growingsteadily during the past few years and isshowing no signs of slowing down, hesaid.“There’s a lot of new investment,” hesaid. “People are starting to consider Osa avery important destination for tourisminvestment. We are optimistic the governmentwill approve plans to build an internationalairport in the Southern Zone locatedin Osa.”So far, about 35 Osa tourismproviders, mostly hotels and bed andbreakfasts, have announced they willhave stands at the fair.“I have great expectations going intothe event,” said Edgar Otarola, owner ofthe Aguila de Osa Inn. “We have alwaystaken part in EXPO-OSA. Most of theinterest in tourism is starting to centeraround the Southern Zone. Within a fewyears, the zone will have grown a greatdeal. During the last EXPOTUR, it wasclear that a lot of people were focusing onthe south (TT, May 28).”THE chamber is expecting between 80and 100 travel agents and wholesalers tovisit EXPO-OSA.“For the most part, we expect nationaltravel agencies,” Centeno said. “We expectsome wholesalers from other countries, butthey will be a minority.”At the event, the Chamber will unveilits official Web site (www.osacostarica.com), which aims to provide the region’stourism providers with a joint location onthe Internet.The Web site promises to offer informationon the national parks, beaches,restaurants and hotels of Osa, as well astourism activities including canopy tours,dolphin watching, horseback riding, hiking,surfing and sportfishing, Centeno said.CENTENO is confident EXPO-OSAwill help convince travel agencies to promoteOsa as a tourism destination.“The chamber would like to inviteeveryone to visit Osa – a unique paradisein Costa Rica, rich in flora and fauna,” hesaid.The event will be officially inauguratedat 2 p.m. July 15 by President AbelPacheco.For more information call the OsaChamber of Tourism at 789-7825.