EXPOTUR 2006 Kicks Off in Costa Rica

EXPOTUR 2006, the Costa Rica Travel Mart, had its official inauguration Monday evening at the Children's Museum in San Jose. In opening remarks, Patricia Duar, president of the Costa Rica Association of Professionals in Tourism, said that tourism priorities were continuing the effort to develop sustainable tourism and improving the country's infrastructure. Duar also addressed one of Costa Rica's more ugly problems—the sexual exploitation of children—calling for renewed efforts to wipe out this black eye for the country's tourism. Johnny Araya, mayor of San Jose, called for improvement to this capital city to make it a cultural center and a first-rate city for business travelers. Araya said the city was in the planning stages to construct an international convention center. Carlos Ricardo Benavides, Costa Rica's new Minister of Tourism, got a standing ovation from the packed auditorium when he said that tourism growth had reached a high point and it was time for the country to increase its marketing budget to attract new visitors. He also addressed the country's infrastructure problems, remarking, "The visitor won't enjoy contemplating a volcano or rainforest if they've had to suffer getting there because of the condition of the roads." Oscar Arias, President of Costa Rica, called for easing the dichotomy between development and environmental concerns, noting the amount of legal red tape facing those who wish to build new hotels. In his final remarks, Arias said, "A country of peace and nature must be our country brand."

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