Saturday 25 June 2022

[OP-ED] Keep Your Chin Up Costa Rica!

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Here we are, arguably the Happiest Country on the Planet, and since the 1st. of the year it has been nothing but bad or near to bad news for all of us.

However, the Tico government in its entirety is a spin master and indeed we should be thankful because if all this bad news is true, it is time to think about Harri Kari. The beauty is that the government and ministries believe their own B.S.

First, no matter how hard we try, how hard we persuade; this country is dependent on one and only country in the western hemisphere with a viable economy: the USA. And, that is fragile at best.

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“Yes,” we had a 4.1% increase in tourism which still remains the life blood of Pura Vida. That percentage increase is ahead of both Panama and Honduras but behind every other Central American country and the Caribbean. The 4.1% was not bad because it counted for as much as 2.5 million foreign arrivals. However, lowly Cuba, where Gringos from the U.S. are not permitted to travel had 4 million tourists and has no infrastructure to speak about. As well, Costa Rica counts the 400,000 or so Nicaraguans who cross over the boarder to work as “tourists” but come to rescue our country from deep seated labor issues such as no Tico will be caught dead picking coffee, pineapples, cleaning rooms. (I take that back, since many nationals are willing to swallow the Costa Rica pride and flip burgers when hunger calls, even working unappreciated jobs while attending classes and trying to work their way out of poorness.”

Friday, the 23rd of January it was officially announced that “foreign sales of electronics fell by 19%, pharmaceuticals by 9.2%, textiles (Once a for sure deal) dropped off by 7.2%.

To make matters even more serious, large firms such as American Express, the famed eBay, Pay Pal and even Google are in the process of downsizing. Not for want of profit but rather to maintain their record earnings. Translated that means thousand of North Americans are soon to be without jobs.

No jobs? Limited tourism.

In my opinion Costa Rica has always had that one wonderful attraction that could (Might) compensate for our low ranking in English language, underachieving government and not a clue how to simplify the business climate and that is tourism.

I speak not for the Papagayo resorts, but for the beautiful, thankful and friendly smaller hotels and hostels that dot this marvelous country. Trying to capture the lily white executive from the U.S. and Canada is too complicated on a $3 million advertising budget. Instead we should look at our roots and make C.R. attractive to seniors, working class, environmentalist and those seeking adventure of which there are millions.

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They are the ones who built this country and attracted investors, real estate gamblers and even the year around “tan”. (Even if the day is cloudy.)

We need to get back to allowing tourism and those thousands, yes thousands who invested in that industry a chance to put our sagging economy back together again absent of outrageous prices and excessive taxes. We should simply once again focus on being a tourist Mecca and forget Intel, Mabe (Atlas), Citi Bank and even Wendy’s which have each jumped the fence and left us behind.

We are a small country, very small and our industry, with rare exceptions, is just as small. What sells Costa Rica is the country, its people and its dance with nature.

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Juan Sebastian Campos
An expat from the U.S., educator and writer in English and Spanish since 1978 with a doctorate in business administrations (DBA) from the United States and Germany. A feature writer for ABC News, Copley Press and the Tribune Group with emphasis on Central America.

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