The global economic crisis has not been kind to the Costa Rican tourism industry. In the first six months of 2009, Costa Rica has experienced a 16 percent decrease in the number of tourists compared to the first six months of 2008.
The Costa Rican Tourist Board (ICT) is hoping the International Surfing Association (ISA) World Surfing Games will boost the struggling figures.
“Bringing the World Surfing Games to our country helps us promote tourism to millions of people who will be watching the competition,” said Carlos Benavides, minister of ICT. “At the same time, the participants and their guests will be able to enjoy the natural beauties of our country, which make us one of the top 10 destinations for surfers.”
According to ICT and ISA, at least 15,000 tourists will visit Jacó and Playa Hermosa, in the cantón of Garabito, during the nine- day surfing tournament. Also, an estimated 120 media outlets will be working on location and, according to ISA, an estimated 80 million people worldwide will tune in to watch the competition on television.
Coverage of the competition will be broadcast live on TV and on the Internet in four different languages.
What Has Been Done to Prepare? When Costa Rica was announced as the host of the games in September of 2008, the country had 10 months to prepare for its first-ever major international sporting event. Through the combined efforts of the Costa Rica Surfing Federation (FSC), ICT, the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) and the municipality of Garabito – which includes Jacó and Playa Hermosa – the beaches, hotels and city appear ready to go.
“The city looks beautiful,” said Carlos Brenes, spokesperson for the Costa Rican national team. “The beaches have been well maintained and are in great shape. The city is clean, and the hotels are prepared for their guests. The entire process has been well managed.”
The possibility that more than 15,000 people might descend upon the Jacó and Playa Hermosa areas called for organization and regimented preparation.
The first item on the agenda: lodging for tourists.
ISA, which partners with World Surfing Games sponsor Billabong, selected five hotels along the beaches as the official sites for the competition. These are Hotel Terraza del Pacífico, Best Western, DayStar Properties, Jacó Bay Ramada and the Sonesta Jacó Resort.
More than 100 people collaborated to provide the proper installations to attend to the needs of the anticipated guests, said Laura Martínez, representative for DayStar Properties.
Martínez also explained that, despite the opportunity to raise prices in response to the heightened demand, DayStar has continued to offer low-season rates.
The other pressing concerns for the competition were Internet and cell phone accessibility for the media, security, and preparation of beaches for heavy traffic.
ICE, the Costa Rican landline phone service provider, has set up phone and wireless Internet accessibility at the 12 beach locations that will host competition events.
ICE has also set up a bus – known as the “Technoride” – equipped with 12 Internetready portable computers for media representatives.
The security and beach maintenance efforts are being handled by ISA, the Costa Rica Surfing Federation ICE and the municipality of Garabito. During the past months, city representatives and members of the FSC have prepared the beaches, roads and parks for the event. ICE contributed by providing lights to the stands and event locations that will remain lit throughout the nights to deter crime in the area.
The opening ceremonies for the World Surfing Games will be today at 10 a.m. on the main street (Avenida Principal) of Jacó.