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Costa Rica tourism chamber lobbies against bill that would redirect funds from Tourism Board to conservation areas

October 23, 2014

Leaders of the National Tourism Chamber (CANATUR) on Tuesday told members of the Legislative Assembly’s Environmental Commission that they oppose a bill that would reduce by 50 percent the Costa Rican Tourism Board’s (ICT) budget to promote the country.

Bill No. 18,251 proposes that funds collected from a $15 tax charged on plane tickets to Costa Rica be distributed equally between the ICT and the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) — part of the Environment Ministry  to pay for purchased or expropriated land for the establishment of national parks, as well as for infrastructure and service improvements in protected areas.

SINAC officials and several conservation groups have previously voiced their support for the proposal.

CANATUR members, however, believe the cuts would affect the ICT’s promotional efforts, which they said “currently are already low compared to those of other regional countries that compete with Costa Rica in attracting tourists,” according to chamber president Pablo Abarca.

“Following the global financial crisis, the tourism sector in Costa Rica has experienced a slight recovery, supported mostly by continuous ICT investment in international promotion and marketing. But those investments are still substantially lower than what other regional countries are currently spending,” Abarca said on Tuesday morning.

Tourism entrepreneurs said proposed budget cuts would leave Costa Rica at a clear disadvantage compared to destinations such as Panama, El Salvador, Colombia and other countries that have “tax incentives, more competitive public policies and a strong strategy for attracting more airlines,” CANATUR said in a statement.

Abarca said members of the tourism sector are aware of the important role Costa Rica’s national parks play in drawing tourists, but the bill’s provisions “threaten promotions of all the country’s tourist destinations, including national parks.”

CANATUR is asking lawmakers to table the bill. They also want a meeting between Environment Ministry officials and members of ICT to draft a new bill that would benefit both agencies.

Lawmakers are expected to discuss the bill at the Assembly’s Environmental Commission on Thursday.

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