A yellow tape at the entrance announces the closure of Golfito Marina Village, a luxurious berth for yachts, a private development intended to attract foreign tourists to the southern part of the country and boost investment in the area.
However, in less than 4 years, the project went from being a hope for Golfito’s beaten economy to becoming a failed project whose future is now uncertain.
The restaurant bar, gym, cafeteria, sportfishing center and five other retail stores aimed at big spenders closed their doors in June. The rest of the project followed, leaving about 40 locals without jobs.
Today, the only sign of activity is the guard who keeps an eye on an infrastructure that is beginning to deteriorate due to abandonment. The only business keeping its doors open is a car rental with a small local clientele in the absence of tourists.
So what happened?
The mayor of Golfito, Elberth Barrantes, says that the group of private foreign investors lost interest in the project. “At the end of last year, they lost interest and left. One of the gringos investors with almost two years supervising the project went back to the United States and simply did not return.
“That meant that there was an impasse in the project and it was in the hands of the local administrator. We were told that they (the investors) lost interest in the project and that another partner is being sought,” said Barrantes.
The abandoned project included 50 berths for yachts of different draft, dry dock storage, a safety beacon, a fuel dock, and an elegant commercial area, as well as parking.
The total investment was US$50 million dollars, an investment that would generate about 400 direct jobs, which would in turn impact area hotels, restaurants, and shops.
The plan was, over time, to expand. Plans including doubling the number of berths, a luxury hotel, and even a floating restaurant.
Local businessman, Donald McGuiness, told La Nacion one of the reasons that led to the closure of the Golfito Marina is the lack of influx of international visitors.
“An investment like this is made thinking of foreign tourists who come to retire here because the yachts are worth thousands of dollars. The problem is that Golfito is far from everything, there is no nearby international airport that allows tourists to get here in less than half an hour, so they are inclined to explore other destinations with more hotel development,” said McGuiness, who offers sportfishing tours.
The departure of the Americans left the Banco Nacional (BN), along with a group of local minority investors and the Municipality of Golfito holding the bag.
National Bank as one of the creditors of the property, together with a minority national investment group and the Municipality of Golfito, which granted public domain areas for the development of the Navy.
Due to bank secrecy, the state bank can’t publicly state on the situation. At the inauguration of the project in April 2017, the government announced that the development was made possible thanks to 70% financing by the Nacional.
La Nacion says it contact Carlos Fernández, executive director of the Marina de Golfito, but was instructed not to give statements.
There is hope
In the midst of despair, there is still faith, of a possibility that a new group of investors will assume the marina and resume operations.
According to the mayor of Golfito, this could happen very soon.
“We are the most concerned about the closure of operations and have coordinated with the Banco Nacional to find a way out. Efforts are being made and they (the bank) is making progress for a national group of investors,” said Barrantes.
The mayor said a deal could be closed in the next 90 days so that the Marina de Golfito reopens its doors to the public later this year.
As to tourism officials, the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) – tourism board – said it had “limited information”, but confirmed that there are negotiations to revive the project.
“We know that the investors left the country and provided the necessary powers to grant the concession to another interested group,” said Óscar Villalobos, executive director of the Comisión Interinstitucional de Marinas y Atracaderos Turísticos (CIMAT) – Interinstitutional Commission for Marinas and Tourist Berths.
Source: La Nacion (in Spanish)