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Costa Rica: Ecotourism plus franchise opportunities


Don’t let the quaintness fool you; Costa Rica is a sophisticated market.

Legend has it that when Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue for his  final tour, he landed in Costa Rica where he and his men discovered the natives had gold—which led to it being named Rich Coast. Only problem was, the gold wasn’t from there.

The Spaniards who stayed encountered a “labor shortage” which meant they had to do the hard work of survival themselves. The end result is a democratic society that defends individual rights, without the caste system found in other countries.

And its rich coastline—21 percent of its landmass is set aside by the government as protected areas—is why the country is a popular ecotourist destination.

“The people here are cosmopolitan and educated,” says Rogelio Martinez, whose international development job allows him to live wherever he wants—which is Costa Rica.

Martinez was with Tutor Doctor for several years before joining Berlitz language schools internationally. He still owns a Tutor Doctor location in Costa Rica, which is doing well.

Costa Rica has been enjoying a tech boom that started with Intel locating a plant there. It has since closed, Martinez says, but other tech and medical device companies followed its lead.

There’s a market for shared services, Martinez says, as well as for “aspirational brands.” “P.F.. Chang’s opened and people think they’re experiencing a better life when they go there,” he points out, even though it’s just “fancy Chinese food.” Starbucks, he adds, also is doing well in the aspirational market.

There’s a number of Costa Ricans who invested in real estate, and now have money to invest elsewhere, he says. Five to 10 years ago, land was selling for close to 10 cents to 20 cents a square meter. “Now that same land is $15 to $30,” he says.

“The value of land has exploded.”

While the government is trying to streamline its required business paperwork, getting permits can be time-consuming. Expect to devote about seven months to secure all the permits you’ll need, Martinez warns.

Another business concern is environmental. Not being within a certain set distance from a dry creek or water source, can stop construction. In addition, the banking industry there is highly regulated. “We don’t want money laundering,” Martinez explains.

Much of the tourist trade is on the Pacific Ocean side of the country, rather than the Caribbean because the government owns or protects much of the Caribbean side.

Beauty, educated people, aspirations—just three reasons why Martinez chose Costa Rica, along with trade mission organizers.


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