QCOSTARICA – Coriport, the company that manages the Daniel Oduber Quirós International airport (LIR), in Liberia, Guanacaste, claimed the State for compensation of US$600,000 dollars for the loss in income during the months in which the country’s airports were closed to tourists in 2020, as part of the sanitary measures imposed by the covid-19 pandemic.
The payment has already been accepted by the Consejo Técnico de Aviación Civil (Cetac) – Costa Rica Civil Aviation agency.
Although the country opened the air borders in August last year, in the case of Liberia, most airlines restarted their operations in November, when the entry of tourists from all countries, in particular the United States, the country with the majority of flights to and from the airport.
César Jaramillo, manager of Coriport, explained that they recorded losses of more than 60% during the time they did not receive passengers and according to the concession contract, established is a minimum number of passengers that must pass through the terminal each year.
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If that figure is not reached due to reasons outside the control of the company, the State compensates the manager an amount for each traveler who did not arrive.
Hence, even the pandemic that affected the whole world is no exception.
The state commitment, in this case, refers to a minimum of 331,500 departing passengers, although, before the health crisis, Liberia received close to one million travelers.
At the end of 2020, the Daniel Oduber airport had 247,084 passengers, for which the State would make up for the difference of 85,416 people.
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“The fall in passengers had a much greater impact than this minimum clause. The effects are much greater than Coriport’s finances because we, at the airport level and at an even greater economic level, are a gear; Every dollar invested in the airport generates US$13 of gross domestic product for the country, it is a very large multiplier effect,” said the manager.
Company intends to assume full control of Liberia airport
Although Coriport had expressed since 2017 its interest in assuming the operation of the aerial part, that is, of the runway and other infrastructure outside the passenger terminal that is currently under the control of the Cetac, these intentions did not prosper and are not an option to consider amid the urgency of repairs, such as the runway, and state limitation of resources.
According to Luis Miranda, deputy director of Cetac, the eventual extension of the contract would take much longer.
“What is being valued to keep runway-level operation at a competitive level is to provide it with a total asphalt layer to improve its operating capacity and it would be guaranteed for 10 years; Compared to the initial project, which was a substantially different improvement, we would be able to bear the cost of the project,” he said.
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This improvement means an investment of between US$20 and US$25 million and the intention of Cetac is to carry out the contracting process during this year, so that the work begins in 2022.
The project that was discarded by the Cetac due to the government’s lack of funds, consisted of building a new runway and leaving the existing one as an extended taxiway.
Miranda affirmed that they do not rule out resuming that plan in the future.
“It is something that is going to require a better economic moment for the country,” he added.
For his part, the Coriport manager maintains that the company is willing to negotiate eventual contractual extensions in order to give the airport the improvements it requires.
“We are always open to dialogue and give a contribution to what the country needs, but the Government has been clear that the administration of the airside corresponds to them. We have had this issue aside, during this time we have concentrated a lot on the land part,” he added.
Jaramillo said that major investments, included in the terminal’s master plan, had already been completed before the impact of the pandemic.
More passengers arriving
According to the Coriport, since the re-opening of the airport, the arrival of passengers has been increasing.
They went from 15,000 visitors in November to 30,000 in December and, by March, it was up to 50,000 travelers per month and expected to maintain that increasing trend until July.
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“In 2019, we reached 1.2 million (passengers), that’s 100,000 per month, we still handling only a percentage of what was a normal pre-pandemic year,” added the Coriport manager.
In Guanacaste, they call this volume of recovering traffic “survival season”.
For Jaramillo, the figures are still critical. as they are not yet sufficient for the tourism sector and to move the province’s economy.