San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rican courtship of U.S. tourists to be turned up a notch

As the tourism industry confronts its first real crisis of the decade, Costa Rican authorities announced an initiative Wednesday they hope will reclaim the attention of the U.S. tourists, who account for more than 50 percent of its visitors.

The campaign, “Costa Rica Plus,” will be a full-throttle ad initiative, inundating the pages of the U.S. news industry, said the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT). With an announced budget of $500,000, the idea is to hit newsstands with coupons, travel deals and information about the tropical beauty and biodiversity that defines Costa Rica in the minds of gringos.

According to the ICT, four major U.S. dailies – The New York Times, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times – as well as Travel Weekly magazine will all get a chunk of the ad revenue, which will be focused in the weekend travel sections.

The advertising will begin Friday and run through Aug. 9, and will consist of everything from coupons redeemable at hotels and tourist sites to travel combos between hotels and rent-a-car agencies.

The local tourism sector has been hit especially hard this year, as the global recession has found its way to Costa Rica. Unofficial numbers from early May claimed the country saw tourism numbers decrease by 13 percent in the first quarter 2009, compared to the first quarter of last year. That represents a big hit to a country where the tourism industry makes up 8 percent of the gross domestic product.

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