San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Tourism Types Scramblin’ To Keep ’Em Coming

Concerned the earthquake is scaring foreigners away, government agencies and tourism businesses have united to send a message: “We are open for business.”

The National Tourism Chamber (CANATUR) and the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT) are contacting international travel agencies to let them know the exact location where the Jan. 8 earthquake hit, the damage, but most importantly, the fact the quake is not affecting the whole country’s tourist destinations.

ICT contacted agencies abroad and posted a formal message on its Web site.

The official message stated in detail that all of Costa Rica’s international airports remain open, as have the country’s major highways and resort areas.

During the last few months, Costa Rican hotel and travel companies have been bracing for slower business due to the international financial crisis.

Nevertheless, no one expected a natural disaster could make the outlook gloomier. About 80 tourism businesses in Sarapiquí de Heredia, which were not damaged by the earthquake, have reported cancellations since last Friday, said CANATUR President Gonzalo Vargas.

Juan Oliver, manager of VEMSA, a travel agency focusing on executive travelers, said the international perception on this natural disaster might make or break the upcoming tourist high season.

“We have to wait and see how this natural disaster will affect the rest of us in the travel industry,” Oliver said. “This quake could redefine our business.”

Officials this week were still trying to quantify the quake’s impact on tourism. Today, ICT and CANATUR officials are scheduled to meet with affected business owners in Sarapiquí and Poás.

“Companies near the epicenter between Cinchona and Vara Blanca have been closed off,” said Maria Amalia Revelo, ICT marketing director.

Although local tourism companies have been affected by misperception abroad, Vargas said, no international flights to Costa Rica have been canceled.

La PazWaterfallGardens and Peace Lodge reported its facilities are currently without basic services, such as electricity and water. Communication lines are down and some of its infrastructure has been damaged.

Some of its guests were airlifted to Hotel Spring Resort and Spa at La Fortuna near Arenal Volcano.

The Hacienda Pozo Azul in Sarapiquí reported that access to its hotel has been closed due to a mudslide caused by the earthquake. On Tuesday, ICT and CANATUR officials met to discuss a financial assistance initiative for tourism businesses.

Tourists unsure of how the earthquake may affect their travel plans should contact their hotel or ICT at (506) 2299-5800 ext. 311, ext. 232, or ext. 437. In addition, ICT spokeswoman Sandra Cordero, (506) 8899-0397 is available for any questions.n


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