ESSENTIAL IDENTITY

Costa Rica 2019 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

Costa Rica has built a vision that encourages the sector to commit to sustainable, innovative development that enables tourism to grow in different parts of the country.

María Amalia Revelo
BIOGRAPHY
María Amalia Revelo holds a master’s degree, graduating with honors in business administration from the INCAE Business School, and a bachelor’s degree in statistics from the University of Costa Rica. An expert in tourism, she has a career of more than 40 years dedicated to the Costa Rican tourism sector, where she has held positions of high responsibility in different companies, both public and private. In addition, she was Deputy Manager and Marketing Director of the Costa Rican Institute of Tourism and has extensive experience in the development and implementation of marketing strategies and tourism promotion in Costa Rica.

What is the tourist identity of Costa Rica?

Costa Rica has an essential identity: we have enormous biodiversity in a small territory. Due to its size, biodiversity is accessible, and tourists can enjoy many different experiences from sun and beach to trees, adventure, hiking in the forests, national parks, volcanoes, and small cities with personality. Costa Rica offers a unique and different experience. We have average stays of 12 days because people want to see everything.

What would you attribute Costa Rica's success in tourism to?

Costa Rica is successful because the public and private sectors share a vision of development. We created a National Tourism Development Plan for the entire sector. We have 30 years of building this joint vision, though we do not always fully agree with each other. Some sectors are inclined toward certain types of mass development, while others are inclined toward smaller projects; however, we have managed to build a joint vision that allows the tourism sector to be committed to sustainable, innovative development that enables tourism to grow in different parts of the country. We do not have enclave tourism, though it allows tourists to visit different areas through the distribution of tourist value. We measure success via several elements. More than the influx of tourists and foreign exchange earnings, we are interested in tourism developing the communities. Our goal is to make Costa Ricans live better through the tourism development of their regions.

Where are the greatest opportunities in the tourism sector?

We seek to complement the current tourism development with wellness tourism, which has enormous potential. This sector includes spas, hot springs, yoga, and others that a sophisticated and experienced tourist looks for. Such tourists always seek new experiences. In the same way, we are forming alliances with the Ministry of Culture to include cultural and gastronomic aspects in the experience.

What is the tourist contribution in the development of the Costa Rican orange economy?

There are opportunities to grow with the cultural sector. When we talk about culture, we do not only talk about pre-Colombian iconic places, but also music. Costa Rica has invested heavily in the development of symphony orchestras, and we have amazing museums. San José is developing as a city with many cultural activities. The tourist experience can be much richer with experiences that are more authentic. We promote Costa Rica to European tourists because that market seeks authentic cultural experiences.

How can the Ministry of Tourism support national institutions to streamline the processes of construction and development of tourist places like in Limón?

We have a great responsibility because we manage all the maritime-terrestrial zones. This responsibility has generated sustainable development with tourism that creates welfare, supports entrepreneurs, and encourages employment. The general objective is to ensure tourism remains the engine of the economy. Costa Rica has achieved the goal of 6% growth, with 5.5% growth in the holiday market and 10% growth in the business and convention market, which has enormous potential.

Why has Costa Rica been so successful in promoting itself and establishing this international reputation?

The success of Costa Rica is because it has been consistent; there have been no radical changes of leadership, and it has built on its past. The new country brand is used in tourism, exports, and investments. The promise we have made as a country is maintained and fulfilled. Some 30% of tourists return, and more than 90% leave satisfied. Our success also rests on the fact that we have an innovative, professional, experienced private sector with the objective of satisfying tourists. There is also a technical team in the public sector composed of professionals who have a great deal of experience and who are committed, regardless of the government.