Tourism institute seeks help in ‘branding’ nation
- by crv.staff
- 10:57 AM UTC
Original source: AM Costa Rica
Posted today, 6/15/09
With a tourism industry in distress and an erosion of the nation’s worldwide image, government officials want to put a new face on the country.
In a message sent out over the name of Carlos Ricardo Benavides, tourism minister, residents here and individuals elsewhere are invited to have their say on what the new Costa Rican image might be. There is a survey posted to a Web site.
In the e-mail Benavides explained that what officials hope to obtain is more than a logo or a slogan. They seek to demonstrate the social values held by the people here. He said that the effort would require intense work but did not specify how much the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo might have budgeted for the process. Benavides said that qualitative and quantitative techniques will be used to focus on the new image.
The institute has been slow in adopting valid methods. In fact, despite having identified a New Jersey family as the 2 millionth visitor in 2008, the institute does not really know how many tourists entered Costa Rica. The employees blame the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería for not providing the data.
Of critical importance for those in the tourism business are up-to-date statistics broken down by country of origin. Although the tourism institute talks about 2 million visitors, the bulk are Nicaraguans and residents from other Latin countries who are not the free-spending types resort owners seek. In fact, every time an expat perpetual tourist enters the country, and most do so four times a year, the arrival is chalked up as another tourist. The best estimate of true tourists from the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia is about 200,000 for the year.
The survey the institute is promoting on the Web lacks validity as a quantitative tool because the respondents are not chosen randomly. Instead it is more a qualitative tool, like a giant focus group, to get an idea of some of the issues.
The current image Costa Rica presents is captured in the slogan “No Artificial Ingredients.” The idea is to promote experiences with nature.
The survey is at this location and requires about 20 minutes to fill out. Officials will keep the page up through Friday. Self identification is optional.
Questions are about problems and images respondents might have of the country, including crime and corruption. The survey is available in English and in Spanish.
As with other tourism projects, officials overlook the prosperous sex tourism segment and exclude it from any responses. For years this has been the elephant in the living room for Costa Rican officials.
For many in other countries, Costa Rica is identified as a sex tourism destination, and this is an image officials will have to counter for a successful campaign if they choose.
Also involved in what is being called country branding is the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto and the Promotora de Comercio Exterior de Costa Rica, the promotional entity.
Costa Rica certainly is a choice tourism destination, especially when Jack Frost holds the Northern Hemisphere in his icy hand. But a growing crime problem and publication of pollution problems, including at the well-known Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, have resulted in international bad press. A major financial magazine also just ran an article on land invasions and property thefts here.
That compounds an already grim real estate and tourism situation, mostly the fault of international financial contractions and overbuilding.
The tourism institute has not been very successful with advertising. A $4.5 million effort in Germany during the last World Cup match hardly caused a blip in European tourism. The institute’s Web page, visitcostarica.com is not even in the top 100,000 in the United States or Canada, according to Alexa.com, an Amazon.com subsidiary that tracks Web usage.
In fact, Alexa shows the tourism institute page at 403,259 in the United Kingdom, 1,093 in Costa Rica and 301,150 in Germany. It’s composite rank of 257,163 is lower than many similar pages. And Alexa reports that more than 50 percent of the persons who do visit the page, do so via search engines, an inefficient and out-dated system when there are millions of pages on the Web.
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