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.

Art Festival in Costa Rica

By Meg Yamamoto
Tico Times Staff | myamamoto@ticotimes.net
http://www.ticotimes.net/daily_paid/dailynewsarchive/2010_08/082010.htm#story2
A celebration of the arts, education and culture is set to kick off Friday in the southern Caribbean beach community of Puerto Viejo, with Carnaval ArteViva 2010.

The Southern Caribbean Arts School (EDACS), which first organized the festival in 2006, this year has teamed up with the Puerto Viejo Development Association – as well as some 120 local businesses – to bring free concerts, art exhibits, theatrical performances, workshops and food and craft fairs to the community through Aug. 31.

Tonight’s inauguration, starting at 7 p.m. in Puerto Viejo’s Casa de la Cultura, will feature the opening of various exhibits by local and foreign artists, as well as a school band, street music and Caribbean food. Capping off the evening’s festivities will be a concert at Tex Mex restaurant by Luis Angel Castro, the Costa Rican singer-songwriter who composed the popular song, “Puerto Viejo.”

Putting the carnaval in the festival’s name, a turno will be set up on the waterfront in the center of town for the duration of the festival, featuring amusement park rides, games, food stalls and Tico-style bullfights (where people are more likely to be hurt than the bulls).

However, the main focus of the festival will be educational, said festival organizer Claudio Ambroso, president of EDACS. Free workshops will be offered on topics such as alternative medicine, Caribbean food, creative techniques and bicycle painting, and all of the area’s local schools will be giving performances, ranging from traditional dances to puppet shows.

A full schedule of events is available on the festival’s website, www.arteviva-puertoviejo.com.

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 Investing in More New Roads and Bridges

By Adam Williams
Tico Times Staff | awilliams@ticotimes.net
http://www.ticotimes.net/daily_paid/dailynewsarchive/2010_08/080210.htm#story3
The Public Works and Transport Ministry (MOPT) pledged on Friday to dedicate $33 million to the reconstruction or repair of 29 bridges along the northern portion of the Inter-American highway in Costa Rica. Most of the bridges in need of repair were built between 1944 and 1952.

A portion of the highway was re-opened on Saturday after being closed two days due to

New highway in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has invested heavily in recent years in roads.

reconstruction of a damaged bridge above the Río Seco, in Puntarenas province near the Central Pacific coast.

On Wednesday night, the river destroyed about 25 meters of the bridge. It was swollen due to heavy rains.

The closing of the highway hindered transportation to and from the northwestern Guanacaste region, as well as travel north and south along Central America’s most important roadway. Detour times were clocked at nearly five hours, as drivers had to take a winding mountain road between San Ramón and Tilarán, in the northwestern province of Alajuela.

The repairs to the bridge cost MOPT an estimated ₡ 50 million ($97,000). MOPT estimates that 400 trucks, 130 buses and around 4,000 cars travel the Inter-American Highway every day.

South Pacific Costa Rica Popular Vacation Destinations This Year

By Matt Levin
Tico Times Staff | mlevin@ticotimes.net
http://www.ticotimes.net/daily_paid/dailynewsarchive/2010_07/073010.htm#story5
Costa Rica’s summer break vacation period saw many travelers heading toward the Central Pacific coast or to Monteverde, while fewer vacationers made the trip to Guanacaste, a traditional vacation hotspot for Ticos.

Ballena National Park, Uvita, Osa, Costa Rica

Photo: Nick Halverson. Ballena National Park, Uvita, Osa, Costa Rica

A survey conducted by the National Tourism Chamber (CANATUR) tracked the level of occupancy of hotels in nine different areas of Costa Rica during the last month.

The area with the greatest percentage of occupancy overall was the Central Pacific (65.4 percent), followed closely by Monteverde (64.6 percent) and the Southern Pacific (63.7 percent).

CANATUR said overall occupancy was a middling 56.1 percent.

Guanacaste, specifically its southern part (36.4 percent), saw the least growth. According to CANATUR, South Pacific hoteliers believed that opening the road to Caldera and the Costanera Sur highway from Quepos, attracted travelers to the area.

“We are very pleased because the occupation in the first half of July exceeded our expectations,” said Ulises Ramirez, manager of the Cristal Ballena Hotel in the Southern Pacific region. “Employers believe that hotels in this area benefited the opening of (the new roads), as this saved time for tourists travelling to the region.”

The northern parts of the country took in the most foreign tourists, with 76.9 percent of the total. The highest percentage of domestic tourists (45 percent) visited the Southern Pacific region.

Hotels in other regions attributed growth to mid-year promotions that pitched deals as last-minute options.

“The mid-year holiday season is important for the sector. However, this year was atypical because the promotions that the hotels offered served as last resorts in many cases. Poor weather also scared off tourists to the area,” said Luis Villegas, of the Hotel Montaña de Fuego, located in La Fortuna de San Carlos.

Average Occupancy by region during mid-year vacations:
Mid-Pacific 65.4%
Monteverde 64.6%
South Pacific 63.7%
Central Valley 56%
Northern Plains 56%
Caribbean 54.8%
North Guanacaste 52.9%
Puntarenas and Islands 51,7%
South Guanacaste 36.4%
Total: 56.1%