San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Carlson Wagonlit Travel Comes to Costa Rica

The world’s second-largest travel management company, Carlson Wagonlit Travel – which specializes in corporate travel planning – has decided to put down roots in Costa Rica, establishing an office here that will serve as a base for the company’s operations throughout Central American and the Caribbean.

The newly formed Carlson Wagonlit Travel Costa Rica, formerly Terranova, the multinational’s Costa Rican partner, is one of the three largest agencies in the country. It has offices in the eastern San José suburb of Los Yoses and in the western Plaza Itscazú, and will promote the concept of a “virtual travel agency,” General Manager Mauricio Castro said at a recent celebration of the Costa Rican branch, held March 22 at the VIP Lounge at the Juan Santamaría International Airport, northwest of San José.

“Our clients have… international, 24-7 coverage,” he said, referring to the Carson Wagonlit’s 3,000 offices in 145 countries. “It’s a megacompany on a worldwide level.”

He added that because of the company’s size and the scale of its airline and hotel purchases, clients – individual or family tourists as well as business travelers – can expect significantly lower prices.

Terranova began operations in 1994 in San José and became one of the country’s largest agencies, specializing in corporate travel. In 1999, the multinational Rosenbluth International named the agency its exclusive Costa Rican partner, but when Rosenbluth merged with American Express in 2002, the agency began looking for another international partner. Carlson Wagonlit named the agency its Costa Rican partner in 2003.

This year, the global company, based in the U.S. state of Minnesota, decided to make the agency its Central American office, changing the name to Carlson Wagonlit Costa Rica. Castro said this was part of Terranova’s “evolution from a local agency to a global agency” – making it the first Costa Rican travel agency to make such a leap, he pointed out.

“It’s a distinction, not so much for the company, but for the Tico labor force,” he added, citing Costa Rica’s bilingual, educated work force as one reason Carlson Wagonlit chose this country as its base.

For Carson Wagonlit Costa Rica – which, today, employs 50 people – Castro said this year will be one of planning and preparation, with 2007 as the “year of takeoff.” The company expects to grow 20-25% within the next few years.

The company, which offers reservations in person, by phone or on the Internet, serves travelers from honeymooners to cruise-ship passengers to study-abroad students to corporations. For the latter group, it offers “an integral travel solution” – for example, a corporation holding a major meeting in Costa Rica can plan its flights, hotel, transportation, meeting facilities, parties and more through Carlson Wagonlit.

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