STARTING Oct. 2, Spanish airlineIberia will fly to San José’s JuanSantamaría International Airport sevendays a week.Tourism Minister Rodrigo Castroannounced the new flights last week duringhis first press conference at theCosta Rican Tourism Institute’s (ICT)new offices in La Uruca, a northwesternsuburb of San José.“This is very good news,” he said.IBERIA will use a 250-seat AirbusA-340 for the new daily flights. Theintroductory price for a round-trip ticketon these flights will be 550 Euros($663).Iberia’s decision to offer these flightscame after months of negotiations withICT, following the airline’s decision toclose down its Latin American hub atMiami International Airport. Last month,it was reported Iberia had decided not tooffer direct flights to San José (TT, July23).“This puts us in a very advantageousposition to further increase the numberof Europeans who visit the country,”Castro said. “We will have four non-stopflights a week with Iberia. This, in additionwith the two weekly non-stopflights from Air Madrid, leaves us withsix non-stop flights each week. In additionto these flights, we’ll have threeflights from Spain via Guatemala, raisingthe total to nine.”CASTRO expects the new flights todramatically increase the number ofEuropean tourists who visit the country.Last year, nearly 193,000 Europeantourists visited Costa Rica – 21.6% morethan in 2002. Europeans currently makeup roughly 20% of tourists who arrive inCosta Rica by air. Tourists fromGermany, Spain, France, England andItaly (in that order) make up the vastmajority of European tourists.Castro said increasing the number ofEuropean tourists who arrive in thecountry is one of the ICT’s main priorities.This year, the institute will spend$5 million of its $7.5 million advertisingbudget to promote the country inEurope.LAST year, Iberia transported245,000 people to Central America. Themain destinations for Iberia passengersvisiting Central America were CostaRica (41%), Guatemala (22%) andPanama (13%).The schedule for the new flights is asfollows: On Tuesdays, Thursdays andSaturdays, Iberia will fly from theSpanish capital city of Madrid to SanJosé via Guatemala City. The flight willleave Madrid at 12:30 p.m., and arrive inGuatemala at 4 p.m. The flight willleave Guatemala at 5:10 p.m. and arrivein San José at 6:35 p.m. The same planewill then depart from San José at 8:25p.m., and arrive in Madrid at 2:35 p.m.the following day.ON Mondays, Wednesdays andFridays, Iberia will fly from Madrid toPanama City via San José. The flightwill leave Madrid at 12:30 p.m. andarrive in San José at 3:35 p.m. The flightwill leave San José at 5:30 p.m. andarrive in Panama at 7:35 pm. The sameplane will leave Panama at 9:35 p.m.,and arrive in Spain at 2:35 p.m. the followingday.Sunday’s flight will leave Madrid at12:30 p.m. and arrive in San José at 3:35p.m. The plane will head back at 8:25p.m. and arrive in Madrid at 1:35 p.m.the next day.