Trade shows are where trends are born. And Costa Rica’s annual tourism fair, Expotur, is no different.
For four days in May, national and international tourism players will descend on the Ramada Plaza Herradura Convention Center in Ciudad Cariari, northwest of the capital, to learn of pioneering vacation offerings and travel innovations within the Costa Rican tourism market. More than 200 international buyers and 800 members of the public will intermingle among 250 vendor stands in one of the country’s largest annual trade fairs.
Patricia Duar, executive director of the Costa Rican Association of Tourism Professionals (Acoprot), which hosts the event, said Expotur is the ideal venue to learn about new opportunities in tourism and take the pulse of the industry.
“Each edition of Expotur presents new facets of Costa Rican [tourism] by way of new roles it promotes; so as the country is perceived not just as a green country, with ‘no artificial ingredients,’ [outsiders see] there are other things that make it attractive,” Duar said. “It’s here [at Expotur] that businesses can show new services, innovations and offers.”
Luxury hotels displaying images of pristine beaches and tropical drinks will crowd in next to adventure tour operators distributing brochures of canopy-zipping, river-rafting tourists. Healing centers will host demonstrations of people curled up in yoga positions and food providers will distribute samples. Complementing the vendor stands will be several cultural shows featuring local artists, traditional dances and seminars on Costa Rican heritage.
In the past decade, Costa Rica has made a name for itself among vacationers looking for an all-natural, boutique retreat. The country is rated in the top five for ecotourism, according to U.S. cable network MSNBC; in the top 10 for adventure spots, according to the online global business newspaper International Business Times; and as the 41st most competitive country in the overall tourism market, according to the World Economic Forum. Tourism represents 7 percent of the country’s gross national product.
“Today’s market shows that travelers are continuing to take vacations, but they are trips catered to what they want, with specialized options. … [Tourists are] conscious of their ecological footprint and are more interested in the experience of the trip,” Duar said.
Looking to retain their niche during the economic recession, Costa Rican tour operators have adopted and adapted trends, including beefing up their green image, dabbling in healing and recovery options, advertising TV-free retreats, designing experience-driven vacation packages and catering to weddings.
“It’s the best opportunity for a company that has tourism products and services to present itself to 200 international buyers who come from three continents,” Duar said. “For international buyers, [the event] facilitates familiarization with the country’s offerings – all the unique opportunities are offered in just one place.”
Mauricio Soto, marketing director for Mountain Paradise Hotel in north-central Costa Rica’s Arenal Volcano area, said this will be the fourth year his hotel will be participating in Expotur. And this year, it will be promoting a new convention center.
“Having a presence at Expotur is a mark [or a status symbol],” Soto said. “It’s also an opportunity to strengthen relationships and to market a new product. It has many advantages for a business in tourism.”
Expotur 2011 will take place May 11 to 15. The fair will be open to the public Saturday, May 14, from noon to 5 p.m., and Sunday, May 15, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.
For more information about the fair, visit www.expotur.com.
What: Tourism expo in its 27th year that will bring together some 250 local tour business and 200 international tour operators.
When: May 11 to 15; open to public May 14, noon to 5 p.m., and May 15, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., free admission.
Where: Ramada Plaza Herradura Convention Center in Cariari, northwest of San José on the highway to Juan Santamaría International Airport.