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Tourism Industry Recovering After Temblor

January 23, 2009

Two weeks after the Jan. 8 earthquake, businesses and neighbors around the epicenter are still picking up the pieces.

According to the National Tourism Chamber (CANATUR), five lodging and restaurant businesses were damaged around Vara Blanca, San Isidro and Fraijanes, all about 30 kilometers northwest of San José.They are La PazWaterfallGarden and Peace Lodge, Posada Volcán Poás, Caciquita Lodge, Souvenir Bandolas, and restaurant Freddo Fresas.

The La Paz Waterfall resort sustained some superficial damage, such as broken glass and cracked furniture.

“The structure and the rooms are in very good shape,” said Joe Duncan, general manager for a sister hotel. “Contrary to popular belief, most of the trails and the gardens (at La Paz) are fine.”

During the earthquake, a series of boulders fell on trails leading up to some waterfalls around the hotel. At the end, the trails acted as barriers to the landslides and kept them from falling on the structure of the hotel, Duncan explained.

All of the animals the hotel keeps on its premises are “doing fine,” said Duncan, who expects the La Paz Waterfall hotel to reopen in about three months. “We had a couple of monkeys escape from their cage, but they were later found.”

Road clean up around the La Paz lodge is expected to take three to four months. More than eight kilometers have already been cleared off, said Jorge Quesada, a National Emergency Commission (CNE) coordinator.

“The weather might slow down the cleanup work,” Quesada said. “Today, we had to stop some of the heavier work due to the rain.”

Just last week, crews from the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) were spotted along the cracked roadways in Vara Blanca fixing up electrical posts as well as telephone lines.

Heading other efforts is CANATUR, which has sent e-mails to 17,000 tour operators worldwide, informing them that the earthquake caused virtually no disruption in the tourism industry.

“We’ve been informing our associates what area was affected and that the area affected is a small area, not affecting the whole country,” said Alberto Lopez, CANATUR’s director.

The Costa Rican Institute (ICT) sent teams of engineers and architects to communities less than a week after the quake took place.

Tourism Minister Carlos Benavides has paid two visits to the stricken zone, where he met with affected tourism business owners.

During those meetings, where the press was not invited, marketing strategies were discussed regarding the return of local and foreign visitors to the areas, reestablishing additional access roads, and determining the conditions of the Sarapiquí River and its effects on the local tourism sector, an ICT press release stated.

Benavides said ICT has a sufficient budget to confront “extraordinary situations.”

 

vgarnica@ticotimes.net

 

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