This is the scene daily at the arrivals level at the San Jose airport. Many are there to pick up family and friends, however, dozens of gavilanes (hawksters) mob and harrass arriving tourists, offering all kinds of services.
This is the scene daily at the arrivals level at the San Jose airport. Many are there to pick up family, friends and co-workers, however, dozens of gavilanes (hawksters) mob and harass the some 4,000 tourists arriving daily. Photo Albert Marin, La Nacion

(QCOSTARICA) Exiting the terminal at the Juan Santamaria (San Jose) airport can be a nightmare for tourists, who are bombarded by “gavilanes” (hawksters), offering all kinds of services, without permits.

In total, airport authorities have identified 106 gavilanes, 36 of which offer informal porter service (carrying your bags) and 70 taxis and minibuses not authorized.

Some wear a uniforms and carry fake ID to convince the some 4,000 tourist arrivals daily.

In addition to the harassment and the “mobbing”, tourists will also find people in wheelchairs (mostly on the departures level), with signs in English, asking of money. And then there are the lottery vendors and individuals who, for a few bucks, will let you use their cellular phones.

The activity also extends to the streets outside the airport terminal. This despite the ban, a Decree signed in April 2001, creating a “safety zone” around the terminal and the access roads, controlled by the Policia de Transito (traffic) and Seguridad Publica (police).

Edwin Retana, Deputy Prosecutor of Alajuela*, says a plan has been started to recover the private area of the airport and prevent such activities, which sometimes lend themselves to committing crimes.

Retana says tourists, both foreign and domestic, deserve a different treatment when arriving or leaving the country.

The task of controlling the gavilanes falls on the shoulders of the Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea (airport police), a division of the Fuerza Publica (police), that monitor the goings on at the airport.

The Deputy Prosecutor said that this week several gavilanes have been duly notified and face charges of disobedience, punishable by up to three years in prison.

In its report, La Nacion says it confirmed that despite the notification, the four on Wednesday were at the airport as usual.

“They give a bad image and some are aggressive with the tourists, to the point of harassment, as they try to earn a living. The airport is a reserved area and not a public domain, where authorized service providers pay airport charges and are required to maintain certain standards, but face competition from those who do not pay fees or meet the requirements,” said Rafeal Mencia, CEO of Aeris (manager of the airport), who also looks favourable on the plan of the Alajuela prosecutor’s office.


* The San Jose airport is in the province of Alajuela

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