According to the Minister of Tourism here in Costa Rica, Allan Flores, tourism in Costa Rica is divided into six sectors: adventure, ecotourism, wellness, medical, rural and convention tourism. I’m not sure where people who just want a break and come here to relax and do nothing fit in. Anyway, he thinks we are strong in the first five sectors but lacking decisively in the last, much of the convention trade lost in particular to Panama over the last decade.
A national convention center has been on the drawing board for the last twenty years, but that is as far as it ever went until recently. In 2011 the Instituto Costariccense de Turismo (ICT) announced it has reached an agreement with the Ministry of Agriculture to transfer a ten hectar (twenty seven acre) parcel of land to the ICT for the construction of a new convention center. The land runs along the north side of the General Canas highway in Barreal de Heredia, about eight kilometers from the International SJO Airport, and has an estimated value of $38 million dollars. The ICT said it has also reached an agreement with Banco Nacional de Costa Rica and Banco de Costa Rica to each finance one third of the total $30 million dollar construction costs, the ICT themselves financing the last third.
The new convention center building has adopted an exciting design, all one floor with 14,662 square meters of construction. Inside will be a very versatile building with mobile walls allowing meeting rooms as small as 162 square meters to as large as 6,989 square meters, and seating a total of up to 4,592 people at the same time. There will be areas for exhibitions, convention rooms, VIP rooms, a press room, a kitchen, a restaurant and hallways.
Outside will be a 7,500 square meter exhibition area, access on and off the General Canas highway, a waste water treatment facility and a thousand parking spaces.
In line with Costa Rica’s reputation as a global leader in sustainable tourism, the convention center will have an ultra-modern low energy air conditioning system that only cools sections of the building when in use, umbrellas to reduce solar-produced heat, a rainwater catchment tank for irrigation of the grounds and use inside the building, sensor operated faucets and water heated by solar energy.
Estimates are that the completed project will attract an additional fifty thousand visitors to Costa Rica each year, and create 175,000 hotel room nights per year. Positive spin-offs are many, with construction work and supplies, then upon completion local restaurants, hotels, car rentals and tour operators reaping the benefits. Also conventioneers will be returning for a second vacation to discover more of Costa Rica than just the Central Valley.
Construction is slated to begin in January, 2014 and take an estimated nine months, but remember this is Costa Rica.
So which hotel is the closest to the new convention center? Adventure Inn of course! With the existing handicap-friendly pedestrian foot bridge over the General Canas highway about a hundred meters from Adventure Inn, guests are looking at about a pleasant five minute walk to the new convention center grounds.