Where are all the tourists? Travelers trot off on horseback along Playa Rajada, on Costa Rica's northern Pacific shore. (Courtesy of Recreo)
Where are all the tourists? Travelers trot off on horseback along Playa Rajada, on Costa Rica’s northern Pacific shore. (Courtesy of Recreo)
[OP-ED]If you believe in the numbers, I’ve got a nice bridge I can sell you. A Bailey Bridge, of course.

A week prior to Semana Santa headlines read hotels will be 80% occupied. As we got to the middle of the week, one of many special interest groups (PROTUR) are claiming 782 Costa Rican Hotels cannot make ends meet, another 100 or so have or are in the process of closing their doors and draining the swimming pool. Even another 100 are facing lender auctions.

Is PROTUR the definitive word? “No and neither is the ICT, CANATUR and the Holy Rollers of Hoteleros. There are many organizations both quasi as well as organized with more than four members and they each have some kind of agenda which might or might not be accurate or even try to tell the truth. (Sort of like U.S. lobbyists.)

And yet, tourism or the lack of it has been a critical economic factor which defined Costa Rica as a place to visit long, much longer before Intel, even pre -Lovable Underwear and Raleigh Baseballs. Other than the government backed Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT), very little has changed over the years excepting the proliferation of mega-destination resorts where one does not need to leave their rented lounge chair in order to be totally surrounded by friendly Costa Rica luxury. Perhaps a monkey or two will be brought out just to catch the true Pura Vida spirit.

Up-scale tourism was not how Costa Rica built this valuable industry nor was there ever so much destructive in – fighting randomly tossing out numbers and facts that support just about anything and everything these official/unofficial tourist organizations want.

For example; The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) claims tourist expenditures equal 9% of Costa Rica’s GDP, but in 2011 it was a whopping 12.3% of GDP. The ICT says, “No, no, in 2013 it was 5.5% of the GDP.”

There are a small number of “wants” that seemingly all these groups in have common:

1) Luis Guillemro Solis, the newly president-elect must provide relief. Precisely, what relief has not been made specific?

2) Roads are perhaps the worst in all of Central American and second only to Somalia. Nothing has been done for 40 years in the area of maintenance except pour cold (Not hot) asphalt which is tamped down by hand. Accordingly, it might have a six month duration or the next rain; which ever comes first.

3) Cut expenses. “Yup,” we are a very expensive place to visit and to live.

4) Cut so many nickel & dime taxes such as the hidden airplane ticket ingress tax, the $29 departure tax to leave the country by air and now a $7 dollar tax to leave Paradise by land. Two of the $7.00 is a luggage inspection tax, paid even if the traveler has no luggage.

5) Do away with the 90 day visa for those who own property or have already submitted 100% of the thick paperwork to immigration seeking some sort of residency. Give the snowbirds who invested money into real property six months of nice, warm weather.

6) Retire the animated sloth and advertise on the Internet not the World Cup and the Sochi Olympics. For example, run lively and fun ads about Costa Rica on Yahoo and Google News

7) How about a little more police protection and some friendliness?

8) Make departing just as important as arriving to Costa Rica. Both should be a pleasant experience with trained, smiling people who can say the word, “Welcome,” and on the way out, “We hope you enjoyed your stay.”