EXPOTUR 2006 Gears up for Tuesday Opening

As EXPOTUR 2006 readied for its official opening on Tuesday, May 17, Travel Agent flew down for a preview of what to expect at Costa Rica's largest travel trade show, which promotes tourism to Costa Rica and Central America. Last year nearly 260 travel suppliers from Central America gathered at the event. Patricia Duar Ugalde, president of ACOPROT (Costa Rican Association of Professionals in Tourism), predicted a successful EXPOTUR 2006 at least partly due to USTOA choosing to hold its "Out of the Country Meeting" in Costa Rica simultaneously with EXPOTUR 2006. "The two events will create a lot of synergy," says Duar Ugalde. "Plus, several of the USTOA member companies attending the event don't presently sell Costa Rica, so we're hoping EXPOTUR 2006 changes their minds. "Natalia Zamoria has been active in Costa Rica tourism for the last nine years, and is presently general manager of INBIOparque, an environmental nature park just outside of San Jose, the capital. "I've seen some positive changes lately," says Zamoria. "One of these changes is the growth of our Rural Tourism program. The program makes it easy for visitors to stay overnight with Costa Rican farm families. Guests do the same things the families do, whether it's picking blackberries or milking cows." She adds that as the program grows, some families are building lodges and creating rural B&Bs. Zamoria also noted that ecotourism continues to be strong, and that the country has a ten year plan of sustainable growth that will preserve the country's appeal for nature lovers drawn to the destination's biodiversity. INBIOparque, which has been open since 2000, could be an attractive option for nature-loving tourists who find themselves in San Jose during the first day or last day of their visits. San Jose has the major international airport and many tourists balk at having to stay overnight in the crowded and fast paced capital. Travel agents would do well to familiarize themselves with INBIOparque and recommend it to their clients who want a taste of Costa Rica's natural attractions when they're faced with a night in San Jose. Visitors can take a stroll through carefully maintained and created natural environments, including, rainforest, pre-mountainous forest, and dry forest and wetlands environments. Along the way they'll both learn about and encounter the flora and fauna of Costa Rica, from poisonous tree frogs to tree sloths. The attraction, which has an amphitheater, light show, gift shop and restaurant serving Costa Rican cuisine, is 20 minutes from San Jose. INBIOparque is open every day except Monday. Luis Quiros, a naturalist guide at the park, says that next year they will institute night tours on Thursday, Tuesday and Saturday, expanding options for time bound travelers. Visit [www.inbioparque.com].