Costa Rica National Parks Generate More Than $1 billion

Original: http://www.ticotimes.net/daily_paid/dailynewsarchive/2010_08/080510.htm#story4

By Mike McDonald
Tico Times Staff | mmcdonald@ticotimes.net

While the upkeep of Costa Rica’s national parks has cost government ministries millions of dollars, the protected areas have proven lucrative for private enterprises.

In 2009, national parks and biological reserves generated more than $1.5 billion

Ballena National Park

Sunset at Ballena National Park, Uvita, Costa Rica (Dec 2009)

for the Costa Rican economy, according to a study released on Thursday by the Center for Economic Policy for Sustainable Development, based at National University (CINPE-UNA).

More than 70 percent of this money went to tourism businesses such as restaurants, hotels, and transportation and travel agencies.

“Tourism is one of the most important sectors surrounding our national parks and protected areas,” said Gerardo Jiménez, director of CINPE-UNA.

The millions spawned by Costa Rica’s preserved plots accounted for 5 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product in 2009.

But the study, which included field research conducted at three national parks, found that Costa Rica and its citizens don’t always reap the bulk of the economic benefits.

In Rincón de la Vieja, a national park in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, 61 percent of the cash generated by the park leaves the country. It flows into the hands of international travel agencies and foreign tour operators.

Roughly 36 percent of the dividends go to national services, such as gas stations or the Costa Rican Water and Sewer Institute. A mere 2.2 percent of the income reaches local businesses around Rincón de la Vieja.

“We recommend that the country implement measures to increase this amount,” Jiménez said.

By contrast, almost all of the money generated by Palo Verde National Park in Guanacaste stayed in Costa Rica. International travel agencies took home approximately 7 percent of the money while local businesses saw nearly 30 percent of the capital.

The rest of the funds from Palo Verde went to national tour operators or suppliers.

While 70.18 percent of earnings went to tourism related business, the energy sector saw 26.3 percent of the earnings generated by the parks and reserves. This figure includes the revenue produced by hydroelectric or geothermal plants that depend on resources inside protected areas.

The remaining money trickled into employment – 1.7 percent – and park and reserve entrance fees – 0.93 percent.

Nature Air named an overall winner in Condé Nast Traveler World Savers Awards

We always recommend that clients fly from San Jose to Palmar Sur regional airport when visiting The Village of San Buenas for the first time. Nature Air recently received an international award from Conde Nast Traveler magazine. Nature Air has daily flights to and from San Jose (Pavas) and Palmar Sur.

The Costa Rica-based airline was acknowledged for comprehensive efforts to compensate for its carbon emissions and social initiatives to promote education and the general welfare in the regions they operate. Nature Air received award from Conde Naste Travler

“Our efforts are aimed at raising the standard of living in the destinations we fly to, while offering an exceptional experience to our passengers” said Alex Khajavi, Founder and CEO of Nature Air. “Awards like World Savers help confirm that we are on the right track, and strengthen a growing community of socially responsible industry pioneers that are on the same path.”
Nature Air offsets 100 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions by subsidizing reforestation and conservation of tropical forests in Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula. Nature Air purchases carbon credits from the government’s National Forestry Financing Fund (FONAFIFO), run by the Ministry of the Environment (MINAET). In addition, Nature Air fuels all ground equipment and vehicles with bio-diesel (a mix of recycled vegetable and cooking oils), collected from airline employees and local restaurants. It’s estimated this biodegradable fuel will reduce roughly 560 tons of CO2 emissions per year.nature air logo
Nature Air also funds a social and educational initiative called the Nature Kids Foundation. Nature Kids aims to provide English education to the communities Nature Air serves. The program has developed two schools, one in Santa Ana and the other in Drake Bay, with the goal of expanding to the rest of the airline’s main destinations. Nature Kids’ students range from elementary age to adults. They learn practical English skills for educational advancement and application in the tourism industry, which dominates regional economies where the schools are located.While some members of the tourism industry have battled tough economic times, Nature Air has continued to grow through eco-friendly cost-cutting strategies. Nature Air continues to invest in its sustainable tourism programs and has increased profits by 22% since 2003.

Alex Khajavi has been invited to speak on a guest panel at the 2010 CNT World Savers Congress on Oct. 20 in Singapore along with representatives from fellow winners: Abercrombie & Kent, Royal Caribbean, Grand Hyatt, and the small Costa Rican hotel chain Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality. He, along with other honorees of the World Savers, will introduce to the heads of the tourism industry – collectively the world’s largest industry at $7 trillion in revenue this year – a range of resources to help them implement more effective and sustainable programs.

Nature Air is the world’s first certified carbon neutral airline and the fastest growing regional airline in Central America. Since its inception in 2000, NatureAir has grown from flying 18,000 passengers annually to more than 140,000 in 2008. Nature Air offers charted flights and 74 daily scheduled flights to 17 destinations in Costa Rica and Panama.

About the Condé Nast Traveler World Savers Awards

The Condé Nast Traveler World Savers Awards are awarded annually to travel companies from around the world for their leadership in social responsibility in the areas of cultural and environmental preservation, education, wildlife conservation, poverty alleviation and health initiatives . An independent panel of 22 judges, leaders from the travel industry and non-governmental organizations, rated airlines, small hotel chains, large hotel chains, city hotels, small lodges and resorts, large lodges and resorts, tour operators and cruiselines against their peers.

Costa Rica Housing Expo – 2010

By Adam Williams
Tico Times Staff | awilliams@ticotimes.net
http://www.ticotimes.net/daily_paid/dailynewsarchive/2010_08/080410.htm#story1
The eighth edition of ExpoCasa, the Costa Rican national housing exposition, kicks off Wednesday afternoon at the Centro de Eventos Pedregal in San Antonio de Belén, in Heredia, northwest of San José. The expo, which runs through Sunday evening, will feature over 250 stands with information on renting or buying a home or property, financing a home, and real estates agencies, as well as items for home construction and décor.

Fifty of the stands will be dedicated to housing and property offerings in different regions of the country, including the Central Valley, mountain areas and beaches. Jason Alvarado, the spokesperson for the expo, said the sales prices of the homes offered range from $49,000 to $560,000 and that 12 national banks will be on hand to provide interested home owners and buyers with financing options.

“The reason ExpoCasa has always been so helpful for visitors is that it allows them to take care of many of the steps involved in buying a house or property all at the same place,” Alvarado said. “It makes the entire process of home ownership much easier.”

As many as 14,000 people are expected to visit ExpoCasa during the five-day event.

ExpoCasa Schedule
Wednesday – 1 to 10 p.m.; Inauguration at 5 p.m.
Thursday – 1 to 10 p.m.
Friday – 1 to 10 p.m.
Saturday – 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Sunday – 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Entry fee:
Wednesday through Friday: Free
Saturday and Sunday: ₡ 1,000; free for senior citizens and children under the age of 12.

House_Lot 9

House in The Village of San Buenas

Costa Rica Seeking More Investment from China

http://www.ticotimes.net/daily_paid/dailynewsarchive/2010_08/080210.htm#story4
By Chrissie Long
Tico Times Staff | clong@ticotimes.net
Even as the Chinese are putting the finishing touches on world class soccer stadium in San José’s La Sabana metropolitan park – a gift to the Central American country – Costa Rica is seeking more investment by the Chinese in infrastructure and in clean energy.

On Sunday, during a visit by China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, Costa Rica made a pitch to its Asian ally to invest in a $221 million highway that would connect the country’s northern plains with the Caribbean port of Limón, among other infrastructure projects.

The plea comes at a time when Costa Rica’s highways are crumbling under heavy rains and the weight of years of postponed improvements. Just three days before Jiechi arrived, part of the country’s main highway north, which connects the country with the rest of Central America, was closed when part of a bridge over the Rio Seco collapsed (see story, below).

But Costa Rica’s foreign minister, René Castro, said the relationship should be a two-way street.

“They also have some ideas for advancement relating to biotechnology, cultural exchanges and sciences that are being developed,” he said, adding that he is looking for “a mature, win-win relationship” between China and Costa Rica in years to come.

Following a working session at the Foreign Ministry’s headquarters at the Casa Amarilla, in downtown San José, the two diplomats signed a cooperation agreement, which is expected to bring $6.2 billion in infrastructure improvements to Costa Rica.

Jiechi spent time with President Laura Chinchilla, Vice Presidents Alfio Piva and Luis Liberman, as well as the heads of the Security Ministry, the Foreign Trade Ministry and the Transportation Ministry.

Formal relations between Costa Rica and China began in 2007 during the Oscar Arias administration. In addition to the soccer stadium, China is also investing in the state-owned refinery in Moín and has purchased $300 million in bonds, among other projects.

Costa Rica Launches Aerospace Program

By Adam Williams
Tico Times Staff | awilliams@ticotimes.net
http://www.ticotimes.net/daily_paid/dailynewsarchive/2010_07/072710.htm#story4
What the city of Houston, Texas is to space travel in the United States, the city of Liberia may soon be to Costa Rica.

On Sunday, President Laura Chinchilla announced that Liberia, located in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, will be the location for an initiative entitled “National Aerospace Development and Integration for the Central American Region in the Generation of New Technologies.” The presentation also included the unveiling of the Central American Aerospace Industry Chamber (CACIA), which will consist of numerous aerospace experts and companies in Central America. Chinchilla had mentioned further development of the national aerospace program as one of her priorities since her inauguration in May.

Liberia was selected as the site for the program’s launch because of its proximity to the headquarters of the Ad Astra Rocket Company, which was formed in 2005 by Costa Rican astronaut and rocket scientist Franklin Chang. Chang, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), spent many years working as a scientist and astronaut with the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Ad Astra is based in Houston, Texas.

The Costa Rican branch of the company, located 10 kilometers west of Liberia on the campus of EARTH University, focuses its research on the creation of the plasma rocket, known as the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR). Ad Astra in Costa Rica hopes to test one of their first plasma rockets in space by 2014.

“We want recognition for Costa Rica, so the country can enter this special industry,” Chinchilla said in May. “We hope that Costa Rica will be the first Latin American country (to enter the space industry).” (TT, May 14)

Of the various experts in attendance, several spoke on their ideas for the development of Central American aerospace, their plans to finance the projects, and explanations of how they will advance the use of plasma energy. According to Costa Rica’s foreign minister, René Castro, over 80 Central American companies have expressed interest in participating in the development of CACIA and the aerospace program.

Costa Rica Tourism Up Through First 6 Months 2010

Source: http://www.insidecostarica.com

Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) – Costa Rica’s Tourism Board – has an optimistic outlook for this year, expecting to reach two million visitors for 2010. The optimism is based on the 3.96% increase in tourism the first half of this year as compared to the same period in 2009.

According to date by the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería (Costa Rica’s immigration service) the number of tourist arrivals from January to June 2010 was 1.124.044. In contrast, during the first half of 2009, 1.025.460 tourist arrivals were recorded.

Given these figures, the executive director of the Cámara Costarricense de Hoteles (CCH), Pablo Solano, despite the increase in tourist arrivals, the average occupancy rate reported by his membership has risen slightly over last year, averaging 60%.

Solano addedthat the hotel operators are positive that increase will continue due to the ongoing efforts by the Chinchilla government to attract more visitors to Costa Rica.

Tourist arrivals from the United States is still the most important market for Costa Rica, showing a 10% increase for this year, for a total of 468.172 visitors, 43.218 more than the first six months in 2009.

Apple iPhone Approved for Costa Rica

By Adam Williams
Tico Times Staff | awilliams@ticotimes.net
http://www.ticotimes.net/daily_paid/dailynewsarchive/2010_07/072110.htm#story1

With the opening of the cellular telephone market to private participation approaching, the Superintendency of Telecommunications (SUTEL) has approved five new cellular phone models to provide service in the Costa Rican network. The five phones approved are the Apple iPhone, the Sony Ericsson U5a and X10 models, the Motorola A853 and the China Bird HK Ltda. B mobile model PL 72. Currently, only phones authorized by the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) can be used to provide cell service.

In addition to the telephones, SUTEL also approved three new Global Positioning System (GPS) devices, a datacard and a credit card verification device that can also be used as to provide an internet connection. Each of the approved items will carry the logo of SUTEL certifying that they can be used in the country.

Apple iPhone 4 will work in Costa RicaThe cellular telephone market was opened to competition when the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA) passed into effect on Jan. 1, 2009. Prior to the opening of the market, ICE had been the only provider of cellular phone coverage in Costa Rica. New competitors are expected to enter the cell market by the beginning of 2011. According to SUTEL, the process of opening the market has been delayed on several occasions due to difficulties in freeing up frequencies shared by telecommunication, phone and internet operators.
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With 3G towers located in San Buenaventura the ability to use the new Apple iPhone 4 is only months away within The Village of San Buenas.

Nature Air: $5 Transfer Fee in San Jose (SJO) to Pavas

Airport Shuttle Service

To facilitate travel for Nature Air passengers arriving at and departing from the Juan Santamaria International airport (SJO), Nature Air offers an affordable VIP Shuttle Service directly to and from the Nature Air terminal at the Tobias Bolaños International Airport (SYQ).

For just $5 per person, passengers can make the ground connection between the two airports. One of our reps will meet and greet you at the airport and assist you with your luggage. All you have to do is sit back, relax and enjoy the friendly air-conditioned ride.

This service can be arranged and paid for in advance when booking your Nature Air flight by filling out the form below or directly at either airport with the Shuttle Coordinator, located at the orange Taxis Unidos stand in Juan Santamaria Airport or with the Concierge desk at any of Nature Air’s airports.

The shuttle departs three times per day from each location to accommodate most connections. For passengers arriving at Juan Santamaria, we recommend that you select an Airport Shuttle departure no sooner than one hour after your scheduled arrival.   Please allow for no less than one hour before your Nature Air flight is scheduled to depart when taking the Airport Shuttle from Juan Santamaria. Passengers looking to connect from Tobias Bolaños to Juan Santamaria should book the Shuttle 30 minutes or more after their arrival to Tobias Bolaños and three hours prior to your departure from Juan Santamaria for your international flight.

If your flight times do not correspond with the Shuttle schedule, or you prefer to arrange private transportation between airports, you may book this directly by contacting our reservations office: shuttle@natureair.com

The Tobias Bolaños International airport is located just 5 minutes from downtown San Jose, and approximately 20 minutes from the Juan Santamaria airport.

Nature Air chose Tobias Bolaños as its main hub to best accommodate the airline’s average 74 daily departures and arrivals to and from San Jose. As the main air service provider at Tobias Bolaños, Nature Air also avoids the frequent delays you typically find at the Juan Santamaria Airport. Our passengers do not have to deal with long security lines and traffic at other airports, and our facilities include a restaurant and other services for the comfort of our passengers. Additionally, our convenient proximity to downtown San Jose allows us to better serve local clients.

Head to the clouds: Costa Rican cloud forest alive with birds, butterflies and orchids

MONTEVERDE REGION, Costa Rica — The Monteverde Cloud Forest is a treasure trove of botanical wonders. It’s also a major pain to get there.

Five miles of new paving on the Monteverde Road was just finished in December, adding to the seven miles already paved.

But the last 13-mile stretch is still an infamous 1 1/2- to 2-hour trip along a potholed, take-your-life-in-your-hands uphill road better suited for donkeys. Crawling along at barely 5 mph, vehicles weave up the mountainside, stones flying from the tires over the no-rail precipice. [Read more…]

Costa Rica Fishing: Pacific Bite Solid; Tarpon Steady on Caribbean

May is a weather transition month along the Pacific coast as we go from dry season to wet season. Occasional evening showers wash trees and debris out into the ocean and many game fish will congregate around this debris as it collects in the current lines. Find the right current line with the right debris and it can be your lucky day for mahimahi, tuna, sailfish and marlin.

The northern Pacific bite continues to improve with the tuna and mahimahi moving in. The central Pacific bite has been good for sailfish and marlin, while the southern Pacific fishing was red hot for a few days and then slowed to average. The tarpon bite on the Caribbean side has been steady. [Read more…]