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New airport terminal boosting business

From the print edition

LIBERIA, Guanacaste – You’ve heard talk of the new terminal at Liberia’s Daniel Oduber International Airport for years. Now travelers flying into the provincial capital of Guanacaste have access to a state-of-the-art facility that will help boost regional development. 

Those comments were part of speech delivered by Johnny Leiva, of the Liberian Tourism Chamber, during a tour of the airport last weekend.

In January, after months of delay, the $41 million project by concessionaire Coriport S.A. unveiled a modern terminal adjacent to the old one. At one end, sunburned travelers departed dressed in sun hats and shirts depicting tree frogs with the “pura vida” mantra. Passengers arrived at the other end of the building, where they quickly stripped off sweaters when they felt the humid Guanacaste heat.

In 2009, Coriport S.A. was awarded a 20-year concession to design, construct and operate the new terminal (TT, Nov. 16, 2011). The concession also includes development and management of the existing terminal.

Before the renovation, only eight international and two domestic airlines operated out of the cramped terminal, which only accommodated about 900 passengers at a time.

Now, business looks good and Francisco Cordero, the airport’s general manager, said it’s only getting better as airlines wanting to open flights to Liberia continue submitting requests. Last month, Copa Airlines announced a new direct flight to Liberia from Panama. The added flights begin June 24 and will operate on Thursdays and Sundays.

“With Copa Airline’s Panama flights, we can welcome all of South America to the Guanacaste region,” Cordero said. Two other airlines are in discussion with airport officials to open lines there before the end of the year.

The new 23,000-meter terminal increases the airport’s capacity by 20 percent, and its staff by 100 new employees. Other new facets include a VIP lounge, a plethora of sparkling shops between four departure gates, decorative fountains, regional art and a special security check-in for passengers requiring private departures and arrivals.

“We can only measure small aspects of the impact the airport is having on the region with the number of people we employ and how many travelers pass though,” Cordero said. “It’s impossible to quantify the direct return elsewhere, but it’s more than significant.”

Fourteen airlines, including commercial and charters flights, service Liberia, and 10-15 flights depart daily. Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays are the busiest travel days.

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