MEET ME IN COSTA RICA

Costa Rica 2017 | TOURISM | FOCUS: MICE TOURISM

The uniquely rich offerings of Costa Rica's tourism sector make it an increasingly competitive destination for the MICE segment.

Continuing to promote sustainability in tourism and growing less addressed segments of the sector such as meetings, incentives, conferences, and events (MICE) tourism remain two of the main priorities of leaders of the tourism industry in Costa Rica. According to the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), the convention industry generates roughly USD11 billion across the world every year, with 120,000 delegates.

Visits to the country for business and professional purposes have been consistently increasing over the past five years. According to figures from the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT), more than 1.9 million people entered the country in 2015 for leisure purposes, while 419,077 came for business. This figure has been increasing exponentially in recent years thanks to the joint efforts of private associations and organization like the ICT. The total number of tourists in Costa Rica for business and professional purposes in 2013 was 287,385, roughly 11.8% of the total, while the 347,004 business travelers in 2014 accounted for nearly 13.7% of overall tourist arrivals, and the 419,077 business visitors in 2015 represented 15.8% of total arrivals.

Tourists vacationing in Costa Rica spend an average of USD100 a day, while those traveling for meetings and business spend between USD200 and USD450 each day, meaning that every MICE traveler that comes to the country represents the economic equivalent of three leisure tourists on vacation.

Some initiatives, such as the future opening of the new convention center and other similar steps being taken by the government including greater participation in trade fairs and hiring international consultants in the field, should exponentially increase arrival figures within the MICE tourism segment in Costa Rica.

The National Convention Center will be a facility that hosts various types of national and regional events for a variety of different business segments. An environmentally friendly building of 15,600sqm that features the main highlights of the national culture, the National Convention Center will have a maximum capacity of 4,600 people and can be divided into 16 rooms. The estimated cost of the first phase of the project is USD32.3 million, USD23 million of which will come from the ICT, while the remainder will be financed by a loan from the National Bank and the Bank of Costa Rica. Once construction is completed, the Costa Rican Tourism Institute will choose a specialized company to manage and operate the facility.

In keeping with the pura vida way of living and working in Costa Rica, the convention center will feature numerous solar panels on its roof, a state-of-the-art LED lighting system, and a mechanism to collect 25% of rainwater intake, which will be utilized for the building's cooling systems, air conditioners, and various health services.

Despite the already high level of development in Costa Rica's MICE tourism segment, there is potential for greater diversification of offerings. Costa Rica has a successful track record of experiences in organizing, planning, marketing, and even operating of events and conferences. The main incentive travel operators, hotels, and attractions have over two decades of experience successfully implementing top-level events. As a destination, Costa Rica offers a wide range of activities that leverage the country's rich natural assets; visitors can hike one of the more than 28 national parks, climb volcanoes, explore forests, float down the whitewater rapids of a rushing river, or take in the therapeutic effects of natural hot springs. The unique offerings available in Costa Rica combined with the years of success in leveraging these local assets provide the foundation and forward momentum for continued growth and development in the country's MICE tourism segment.