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Expotur hypes Costa Rica as convention hub

From the print edition

Tourism representatives from emerging and other countries as far away as Europe and Asia will meet this week with hundreds of regional business owners at the 28th edition of Expotur, Costa Rica’s annual tourism convention.

The congress takes place Wednesday through Friday at the Ramada Plaza Herradura Hotel and Conference Center in Cariari, northwest of San José.

Unlike past years, the fair will not be open to the public. A separate event for the public will be held in November, said organizers from the Costa Rican Association of Tourism Professionals (ACOPROT).

Patricia Duar, executive director for ACOPROT, said thanks to bettering economies across the globe, this year’s Expotur will house visitors from “areas you never thought of.”

Growing wealth in Brazil, India and Russia means more tourism buyers in those countries are looking to promote international sites beyond the local spots. In addition, countries with strong economies like Lithuania and Australia are viewing Costa Rica as a destination to endorse, despite its far-away location.  

Expotour 2

Stand from the Eloy Alfaro Oxcart Factory in Sarchi. Photos Courtesy of Patricia Duar

Duar said 220 international buyers will be present at Expotur 2012, including 113 new companies. 

Approximately 300 travel companies will try to tempt those buyers. The majority of these sellers are Costa Rican organizations, but others are arriving from the rest of Central America, Peru, Mexico and Brazil. 

The biggest push this year will be in the area of “meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions,” known in tourism circles as MICE, Duar said. With a new convention center on the horizon, Costa Rica wants to begin touting itself as a MICE destination. 

“If we want to present a country as suited for this segment,” Duar said, “we need for them to learn that Costa Rica, even though it does not have a convention center right now, has a lot of properties, which are good for holding different meetings.” 

She said the benefits of this tourism sector are that large groups visit Costa Rica for shorter periods of time, but tend to spend more money in the country than your average leisure traveler. Only recently has Costa Rica had the capacity and advanced planning to accommodate these events.

Costa Rica has hosted large international events in recent months such as the Latin American Medical Travel Summit in April, and an international Internet convention in March, during which President Laura Chinchilla spoke and 1,700 people attended. The reason for emphasizing Costa Rica as a meeting hub at this year’s Expotur is due to a new $30 million convention center being built in Barreal de Heredia, northwest of San José.

Chinchilla announced the convention center at last year’s Expotur. The structure will have a capacity of more than 2,500 people, with funding coming from Banco Nacional, Banco de Costa Rica and the Costa Rican Tourism Board.

The usual tourism ventures will not be forgotten at Expotur 2012. Booths at the fair will promote ecotourism, adventure tourism and hot trends like holistic or spiritual retreats. For more information, visit

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