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Meet in Costa Rica: Country Ups Convention Destination Appeal

With the February opening of a new convention center at Hotel Barceló Tambor Beach on the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica has added to its inventory for catering to the corporate traveler.

Going beyond a typical business event destination where attendees are locked in windowless, multipurpose rooms in urban environments, the Barceló Tambor offers the combination of a beach getaway and a quiet workspace.

The idea behind the convention center was to get a foot in the door in the emerging market of corporate vacation events, said general manager Marlon Prendas, a well-spoken man whose lineup of phones on the desk before him took turns ringing throughout The Tico Times’ 10-minute interview.

“Our idea in constructing a convention center here was to give people an alternative to the six-floor office buildings in the middle of the city,” he said. “While attendees are in seminars, families can be enjoying the beach or outdoor activities.”

And Tambor has no shortage of those; with a natural park, bird sanctuary, horse stable, miniature golf course, casino and gentle-waved beach, this all-inclusive resort can keep visitors on their feet. Though the infrastructure is somewhat tired, the constant activities and entertainment give the hotel a sense of being very much alive.

The Barceló Tambor brings another plus to Costa Rica’s convention-center offerings in that its facility has one of the largest capacities in the country. The newly opened, 840-square-meter, porcelain-floored center can host groups of up to 1,000 people.

“This makes us unique in the sense that we can coordinate both small and big events,” Prendas said. “We are very versatile.”

In addition to its size, the Barceló Tambor offers clients all-inclusive value with its indulging spread of international food in the all-you-can-eat restaurants, poolside bars with limitless cocktails and beverages, and a constant supply of activities such as kayaking, soccer, horseback riding, aerobics classes and wildlife tours.

Prendas is hoping Costa Rica will become “the new alternative” for corporate events in vacation destinations, competing with well-established centers such as Cancún, Mexico, and the U.S. city of New Orleans.

Complementing the new convention center in Tambor is an array of other options throughout the country, including the exclusive JW Marriott in the northwestern Guanacaste province; the conveniently located Costa Rica Marriott and Ramada Plaza Herradura hotels, both within minutes of Juan Santamaría International Airport in the Central Valley; the Real InterContinental Hotel in San José’s posh western suburb of Escazú; and several choices in downtown San José.

Tourism Minister Carlos Ricardo Benavides is also talking about opening a national convention center near the airport and Real Cariari mall, northwest of San José, to further promote the country as a destination for large-scale events.

Costa Rica Convention Destinations

Barceló Tambor Beach

Location: Tambor, Nicoya Peninsula.

What sets it apart: Claiming to be the largest facility to host vacation-destination corporate events, this beachside, all-inclusive resort has it all. From an ecological park to a casino, spa services and continuous poolside activities, the recently opened Tambor Convention Center offers a unique, value-added experience to company events of any size.

Top market: Costa Rica.

Top industry: Service sector.

Capacity: Up to 1,200 for a cocktail event in one 840-square-meter meeting room that can be separated into individual rooms by collapsible walls.

Amenities: All-inclusive resort with three restaurants, gym, spa, butterfly garden, bird sanctuary, horse stables, evening entertainment, Internet center, store, tennis courts, beach, pool and casino.

Cost: $15 to $80 per attendee, depending on group size, season and services. Guest room rates range from $59 to $80 for Costa Ricans and residents, $96 for foreigners.

Contact: 2683-0303,,

Barceló San José Palacio

Location: La Uruca, northwestern San José.

What sets it apart: With a strategic location directly between the city and the airport, the Palacio’s convention center offers a variety of meeting room sizes, from an intimate environment for 15 to space for cocktail-style events for up to 1,100, as well as 20 years of experience in the event planning industry.

Top market: Costa Rica.

Top industry: Finance and government.

Capacity: Up to 2,000 divided among 12 rooms, with the largest room – the El Greco – accommodating as many as 1,100.

Amenities: Three restaurants, one bar, gym, squash and tennis courts, spa, beauty salon, pool, casino, laundry, stores, outdoor pool and business center.

Cost: Between $20 and $60 per attendee, depending on group size, season and services. Guest room rates start at $103.

Contact: 2220-2034,,

Costa Rica Marriott

Location: San Antonio de Belén, northwest of San José near the airport.

What sets it apart: A unique corporate hotel with the feel of a resort, offering large meeting spaces and excellent services. Just 10 minutes from Juan Santamaría International Airport, it offers easy access to nearby office parks.

Top market: United States.

Top industry: Pharmaceutical and technology companies.

Capacity: 15 conference rooms that make up over 1,000 square meters of flexible meeting, banquet and function space.

Amenities: Three restaurants, spa, business center and concierge, tour desk, two outdoor pools and a Jacuzzi, wireless Internet in public areas, wired in rooms, guest rooms with flat-screen TVs and multimedia plug-and-play, meeting rooms of various sizes with breakout areas.

Cost: The meeting package is $31 per person plus tax and includes two coffee breaks and lunch. Guest room rates depend on time of year and group size.

Contact: 2298-0808,,

JW Marriott

Location: Hacienda Pinilla, near Tamarindo, Guanacaste.

What sets it apart: Located on a unique, hacienda-like property on the northern Pacific coast, this resort features spacious rooms, high ceilings and a patio area.

Top market: United States.

Capacity: Average group size is 250 people. The largest banquet room can comfortably seat 290, but 600 can be accommodated for cocktail-style events.

Amenities: Four restaurants and two bars, bookstore, small shop, car rental kiosk, beachfront, pool, video game room, salon and spa.

Cost: Prices vary depending on the season, the amount of food consumed during coffee breaks and lunches and audiovisual equipment needed. Guest room rates range from $195 to $415.

Contact: 2201-5318,,

Los Sueños Marriott Ocean & Golf Resort

Location: Playa Herradura, near Jacó, central Pacific coast.

What sets it apart: With more than 1,100 square meters of flexible function space, much of which includes outdoor and patio areas showing Costa Rica’s natural beauty, the resort has eight state-of-the-art conference rooms, complemented by imaginative cuisine and specialized theme events.

Top market: United States.

Top industry: Pharmaceutical and technology companies.

Capacity: 1,100 square meters of flexible function space, including eight conference rooms and outdoor and patio areas.

Amenities: Six restaurants, golf course, spa, kids’ club, large, beachfront pool, wireless Internet in public areas, wired in rooms and meeting rooms, meeting rooms of various sizes with breakout areas.

Cost: The meeting package is $29 per person plus tax and includes two coffee breaks, lunch and wireless Internet service. Guest rooms range from $135 to $159.

Contact: 2298-0808,,

Ramada Plaza Herradura

Location: Ciudad Cariari, northwest of San José on highway to airport.

What sets it apart: Located within 20 minutes of business centers, the airport, the capital and free-trade zones, this hotel’s International Conference Center offers flexibility in space, top-of-the-line security and personalized services.

Top market: Latin America.

Top industry: Expos and private functions.

Capacity: Eight executive halls with the capacity to hold approximately 1,900 people in about 1,400 square meters of total space.

Amenities: Three restaurants, casino, spa, small store, bar, car rental services, exclusive access to Cariari Country Club, which includes an 18-hole golf course, 15 tennis courts, Olympic- size pool and professional gym.

Cost: Depends on services, but a package including lunch, two breaks and use of rooms costs about $32 per person. Guest room rates depend on time of year and group size.

Contact: 2209-9800,,


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