MORE than 500 tourism businessesparticipated in the 20th annual TourismNegotiation Exchange (EXPOTUR),which went off without a hitch this week inSan José.Participants displayed their wares tomore than 200 tourism wholesalers – travelagents who prepare package deals –from all over North America and Europe.More than 800 meetings between wholesalersand providers took place at theevent, which concluded yesterday.“These numbers show that EXPOTUR,without a doubt, is the most importantactivity of this nature that takes placein the region and one of the most importantin the hemisphere,” said President AbelPacheco during the event’s inaugurationTuesday night at the National Theater.Organized by the Costa RicanAssociation of Tourism Professionals(ACOPROT), EXPOTUR was created in1984 to help revive the then-strugglingCosta Rican tourism industry.DURING the last 20 years, the eventhas developed into a major internationaltourism exhibition.“The more than 220 weekly internationalflights the country now receives,were just 12 when we organized the firstEXPOTUR,” said Manuel Carranza, presidentof ACOPROT. Today, tourism is thecountry’s number one generator of foreigncurrency.Tourism Minister Rodrigo Castroconsidered the 20th anniversary a definingmoment.“The industry has overcome its adolescence.Better times are ahead,” he said.EXPOTUR has grown each year and2004 was no exception. More than 230stands covered the entire spectrum oftourism-related businesses at HotelHerradura’s convention center on the wayto Juan Santamaría International Airport.THIS year’s EXPOTUR awards werepresented to Roberto Kriete, president ofthe board of directors of Central Americanairline Grupo TACA, who received theFriend of Costa Rica Award. Hotel pioneerLuis Medaglia received the NationalPromoter Award and ACOPROT vicepresidentCarlos Lizama earned theTourism Pioneer Award.Former President Oscar Arias (1986-1990) received a special award for his effortsto jumpstart the Costa Rican tourism industrywhile he was President (1986-1990).The event ended with a performance of“Nadie Me Quita Lo Bailao” by theNational Dance Company. Some of thosepresent called the racy number inappropriateat a time when the country is trying toshake off accusations of becoming a sextourism destination (see related article).Putting an end to sexual tourism wasone of the main points of the inaugurationspeeches made by Pacheco, Castroand Carranza.