Our Natural Beauty: A New Hook for Tourism and Investment
In spite of the fact that Costa Rican legislation regarding civil aviation is more open and welcoming to American based airlines, there are various foreign based airlines from elsewhere who will likely touch ground on Costa Rican soil. Among them Britain's, First Choice, Spain's Air Comet, Canadian's Sun swing Vacation, Mexico's Interject, Frontier and Spirit Air who began departing from Miami and will soon be departing from Los Angeles. Most significantly, Iberia announced plans for a daily direct flight between San Jose and Madrid. With the authorization of these airlines, Costa Rica should receive the projected two million tourists by the end of this year as projected by the ICT (Costa Rican Tourist Institute).
In question are the common delays occurring in the main terminal area of the Juan Santamaría airport however according to the sub-director of Aviacion Civil, Jorge Fernandez, who assures that the new airlines may touch down as commercial lines rather than as "charters . The problems in question are at the political level concerning airport operator Alterra and have no effect at the operational level, if the operational problems were serious, there wouldn't have been any interest on the part of these airlines to pursue certification. Fernandez goes further to suggest that the arrival of more tourists is far from saturating the airport's capacity due to the number of tourists entering the Liberia airport on the Pacific side of the country. What happens at the Juan Santamaría is no different than any other airport, frequent construction and renovation has delayed operations and the bottlenecks of people who form line-ups at migration are caused by lack of personnel as Fernandez ensures that the Santamaria is a work in progress and that Costa Rica is set on a first rate airport facility. Besides the Santamaría there is talk of a mega airport for the southern zone of the country which borders Panama as Costa Rican civil aviation's authority continues to explore and analyze new alternatives.
The province of Guanacaste has developed signifi¬cantly since the opening of Liberia's Daniel Oduber airport which is working efficiently without obstruction by pending projects on the table and as for the proposed new airport for the southern zone; it has the potential to surpass capacity of the Santamaria. Land sites are currently being assessed for the new location as the local population consisting of potential investors is attentively waiting on the wings so to speak.
Currently there are over thirty small air terminals in the country, the majority of those which are incur¬ring excess costs and not meeting their objectives for which they were built. Civil Aviation is entertaining the idea of trimming the fat down to four modernized terminals like Liberia's locating them in key regions.
The south zone has the potential to convert itself into a bigger attraction than even Guanacaste considering its untouched natural richness including six indigenous reserves, archeological wonders such as the famous rock spheres and remote beaches, all of which could facilitate ecotourism, agricultural and adventure tourism. As well as the warm climate, the southern zone also offers a cold climate in the Chirripo National Park and the International La Amistad, located on the Talamanca mountain chain which were declared by UNESCO; "Patrimonio de la Humanidad" In addition, the zone offers protected areas "Parques Nacionales de Corcovado, Piedras Blancas, Marino Ballena and others whose diversity is sought upon by environmentally conscious tourists. The plan for the south zone is part of the master plan which won't interfere or suffocate resources for the other regions of Costa Rica.