Rico’s TICO BULL – Last Saturday, I had the occasion to visit the Irazu volcano. Didn’t get to see much, it was late in the afternoon and clouded over. Besides it was a cool 11 Celsius (52 Fahrenheit) at 3,432 meters (11,259 feet) above sea level, for which, other than the 5 minutes braved in the cold, the rest of the time was in the car.
But that is not the point of my story.
My reason for being up there and that late, about 2:30 pm, in the afternoon – the volcano top should be visited early in the morning – with the park closing at 3:30 pm, was with a client in Costa Rica scouting activities for his group tour in February.
The client is promoting Costa Rica for an international company that will see 150 people from all around the world visit Pura Vida. The group includes top company executives and, well, not sure what the selection process is for the rest.
Entrance to the Irazu park is US$15 per person, a lot less, ¢1,000 colones (less than US$2), for nationals/residents. Plus parking.
Ok, that is the cost of visiting the highest volcano in the country, where if it had been clear, we would have been able to see both coasts, the Pacific and Caribbean, from the same spot.
We had already seen the Pacific earlier in the morning from the almost climb to the Poas, a spectacular view from the entrance to the Poas National Park, given that the park is still closed due to the recent activity at the volcano that began on Semana Santa.
Still with me?
Given our purpose was to also obtain prices for the activities, I asked the friendly park attendant the cost for a group, in this case, 150 people and most likely in three buses.
Silly me. I surely thought there had to be some group pricing, that is a discounted price for large groups, maybe a single cost for a bus of 50, Or something along that line.
The cost por favor? “US$15 per person, plus parking,” was the reply.
Simple math, 150 people is US$2,250, plus ¢8,400 colones (that includes the entrance cost for each driver) for the three buses.
The park was great, even with the almost zero visibility. Never did see the crater and did get to experience the cold in Costa Rica that I have so much heard about.
The drive up and down the colossus was stupendous, though I thought to myself why would anyone want to live up here, as we passed home after home, after home. Hasn’t anyone told these people Costa Rica is a tropical country and there is warm weather literally only a few minutes away?
We stopped several times to take pictures, photos of the city of Cartago below, San Jose to the west and a rare look (for me) of the Central Valley from above. I have seen it before from the air, but nothing like standing and taking it in, even with the cold air, about 17 Celsius at this point in the descent.
Least it to say, this was the first and will most likely be the last for my Brazilian client, as he promptly scratched off the Irazu and the Poas, even it were to reopen by February, from the list of things to do an visit.
The Irazu would have been one of the 5/6 day activities in the country.
For the ride back to San Jose, the conversation focused on that, the high costs of entrances and activities, but mostly to the lack of group pricing, in particular to organizations and businesses promoting a Costa Rica group event.
I mean, here is a client who is bringing in 150 people to the country, putting them up at one of the finest hotel in the country, a spectacular presentation (for which they will be bringing in specialized equipment and staff), private transportation (me) and all that entails a week’s stay in the country and then not even get a discounted group rate at a state park?
The rest of the conversation focused on other activities and things to do. Puntarenas? Jaco?
Something is wrong here.
The ‘goose’ is cooked. If by chance anyone from the Tourism board is listening in, there are other countries competing for tourist dollars. Wake up. The con job is over.