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200 Former Costa Rica Tourism Minister Investment Advice

200 Former Costa Rica Tourism Minister Investment Advice
200 Former Costa Rica Tourism Minister Investment Advice

Podcast Transcription

[Richard Bexon]
Good morning, Gustavo. How are you doing?

[Gustavo Segura]
Very well, Richard. Thank you very much for having me on your very much followed podcast.

[Richard Bexon]
Not at all. Not at all. The pleasure is ours, Gustavo.

It's an absolute honor to have you on here when I was thinking again, who to get on the 200th episode here, you jumped straight into my mind and I was like, do you think Gustavo will do it or not? And then I chatted with Casey, who we both know, and he was like, I think Gustavo would love to be on it. So, so, yeah, I reached out.

So I appreciate you coming on. Well, thank you. Thank you.

[Gustavo Segura]

[Richard Bexon]
Well, Gustavo, let's jump into it. I mean, I think your viewpoint is very unique here, you know, having been involved in the government, but also in travel as well. I mean, you've been in tourism your whole career.

And I think anyone that wants to read up on Gustavo can do, I'll provide your LinkedIn details in the description. But I mean, markets have had a somewhat good start to 2024. You know, real estate worldwide is starting to see a slowdown.

And I think we're starting to see a little bit here in Costa Rica. But from a tourism point of view, I mean, what are you seeing happening? Thank you, Richard.

[Gustavo Segura]
I think I love the question because it's not very often that we stop and think there is such a close relationship between the model of tourism development that Costa Rica has had, and not just real estate investment, but also foreign investment in general. Yep. I truly believe that our model of tourism, which let's just call it in general, a model of niche, sustainable tourism, has had a major role in making Costa Rica a more attractive country for real estate, and now technology investment, etc.

So if you allow me, I'm going to refer to that a little bit. I think the model of sustainability of tourism in the country goes way beyond, you know, the mere fact of hotels and tour companies doing recycling or, you know, doing a good job in terms of their footprint. Don't get me wrong, that's crucial for the tourism model.

But it goes way beyond that. Our model of tourism sustainability goes back, I think, to the last century when Costa Rica decided to abolish the army in 1948. Yep.

And then it strengthened education and health. And for the future generations, it provided for the perfect platform for a mentality of social progress. All right.

So with that in mind, why has Costa Rica been so open to international visitors and so friendly to international visitors? Well, it's because we have seen that with tourism coming to, let me just mention, San Carlos, Osa Peninsula, Rialba, Monteverde, you know, rural communities that 40, 50 years ago were struggling to see a better quality of life. When tourists started coming, those local communities started to see better roads, better schools, many more opportunities to have a great quality of life in their local community.

So that has made Costa Ricans, I'm sorry, turn off the camera for a minute. That has made Costa Ricans, you know, not just friendly, but we enjoy the contact and the relationship with international visitors. I think that situation has totally transpired into our civil life, into our day-to-day life.

So that's one aspect of it. The other major aspect of it, I touched on it briefly, is that after 1948, when new schools came into the picture for public universities for such a small country, a general accessible school system all the way from elementary to high school, and a general universal health system created later a vast platform of people that are interested in learning, interested in training themselves. So that's what you've seen in the last 20 years, a switch in the development model of Costa Rica towards an open economy, an open economy that attracts foreign investment, even in areas that are in the frontier of knowledge, such as technology, medical devices, etc.

And that's because, again, this is a small country, but with enough quality engineers, quality accountants, quality managers, etc., that it is interesting for large, very reputable companies to come and set shop here. And then, of course, the third aspect comes right after the first two. After tourism developing and after foreign investment coming to Costa Rica, then real estate follows.

With the needs that are produced, real estate has followed. And now we're seeing a very interesting surge of real estate innovation in the country, such as not just hotels, but hotels with real estate attached to it, communities with better amenities around them, etc. I think it's a wonderful relationship between the three things, tourism, foreign investment, and real estate.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah, it's going to be interesting. You know, I mean, I think we're starting to, you know, it's, I did a presentation the other day, which, a webinar the other day, where we were talking about, you know, foreign direct investment here of Costa Rica being, I think, in 2022 or 2023, being the number one country for foreign direct investment. It was like, for every $1 of GDP, $13.1 came in. And like, it's pretty incredible that a country that, you know, is so small, you know, and it was, I mean, there was United Arab Emirates there, there was Singapore, like these countries that have been around for a long period of time with a lot of money, and Costa Rica, really hitting way above its rate on that foreign investment. But it's, it's just interesting of being like, Michael, you know, and then we were talking about arrivals of tourists and going, okay, Costa Rica has a goal of 2030 by being 5 million, which I'm like, God, that's pretty aggressive, guys, you know, of being from where we are to getting to 5 million. And my question was, is does the country have enough hotels to manage that amount of people?

And I don't think they do today. Because you can see in December, January, February, March, like there is no space in hotels. So double the amount of tourists arriving, what does that do?

Because hotels, we're not doubling the amount of inventory of hotels over the next couple of years.

[Gustavo Segura]
No, I think you're touching into a very, very sensitive subject in which there is not a general agreed upon opinion in the industry. Yep. As opposed to 30 years ago, 30 years ago, 25 years ago, I think we all agreed that our model should be niche, should be moderate growth, we should completely stay away from mass tourism, mass development.

You know, I think those models have worked very well for countries such as Dominican Republic, the south of Mexico, etc. But being the fact that Costa Rica is a much smaller geography, which much more biodiversity, and being the fact that the center of attraction has been the National Park System, you know, we cannot embrace mass tourism as a model. I agree.

I always try to be careful when talking about this, because I'm not saying mass tourism is a bad model. Yep. What I'm saying is that it's not the right model for Costa Rica due to the fundamentals of the country.

So I honestly think that moderate growth is what's fit for this country. It has been in the last 25 years, you know, our average growth has been four or 5% in arrivals in tourism revenues. I would like it to stay that way.

I think it will. Pardon me?

[Richard Bexon]
I think it will, Gustavo, and I'll tell you why in a minute, but finish your thought. Okay.

[Gustavo Segura]
If we adopt a different system in which we accelerate growth, then it's going to completely affect the fundamentals. It's going to affect the quality of life. It's going to affect the experience, the natural parks.

I would rather stay as a niche market, even if we have to take the criticism of being an expensive destination, because that's what niche market means. When you're a mass market, you go for volume, you go for trying to reduce your costs by spreading your costs with volume. When you're a niche market, then it's less customers paying more.

And that's nothing wrong with that, in my opinion.

[Richard Bexon]
Look, let's be Rolls Royce, not Ford. I completely agree with that statement. I think we don't have to worry, Gustavo.

And the reason being is the water infrastructure and the infrastructure in beaches is so bad that there is no way that large hotels can come in here. And when they do the numbers, just for the permitting process and going through all that, it takes such a long period of time compared to other destinations. I think what we're seeing here now is just higher end like Waldorf, Ritz-Carlton, one and only, that's the only models that can work here.

What can't work here are like the Barcelos, not that there's anything wrong with that model, it's just the numbers don't work here.

[Gustavo Segura]
They don't work. And once again, I'm of a very strong opinion regarding this fact. I have had interesting discussions with colleagues that don't agree with me.

I like this model. It's good enough to provide for interesting quality jobs. It feeds into other industries such as semiconductors, technology, medical parts, etc.

That's how Costa Rica should continue to be. Now, with that said, of course, we have our challenges. You're mentioning a very specific challenge that we have, water distribution in the coastal areas.

Well, it's not a positive thing, but if that's what's preventing from larger investments coming and changing the model, then it's not such a bad thing after all.

[Richard Bexon]
Look, I think Costa Rica has a natural filter, dude. It's so difficult to get stuff done here sometimes. Any bad ideas just don't get done a lot of the time because it's not like, unless you really love this country and really see it, you're not going to push through that difficulty of doing a project in Costa Rica.

And I think anyone that's listening that's done a project or even something small understands what I'm talking about. It's never easy, but that's the beauty of Costa Rica.

[Gustavo Segura]
Having participated in a government position in the past, I can tell you that the conflicting concept there is that you want to make things more efficient. You want to make things easier for investment to happen in quality levels. You want to reduce red tape and you want to make things better for everyone.

But how do you do that at the same time as keeping the right model in place?

[Richard Bexon]
And it's a challenge. Well, look, I mean, I think as long as Costa Rica sticks to those principles of being that boutique niche destination, I think we'll do fine. Why?

It's so difficult to attack it, man. If we try and compete with Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, we're going to get creamed. We can't compete.

We can't. It's again, if we're Rolls Royce, there's no point of us competing with Ford. It just doesn't work.

[Gustavo Segura]
It doesn't work. There is a market out there that want to go for a full week to a beach destination in a beautiful white sand beach with crystal clear blue waters. And for that, there are these large hotels that I mean, they might be very expensive and very luxurious.

And that's great. I mean, there's a market for everyone, but Costa Rica is about something else. It's about providing an experience, not so much a hotel experience, but a full experience.

And I love the numbers that go with it, Richard. I love the fact that on average, a tourist stays in Costa Rica for 12, 13, 14 days, as opposed to four or five days. I love the fact that they visit four or five locations instead of just one, because they spread their expenditure throughout the country.

And it ends up going to many more small entrepreneurs, many more small businesses that provide for transportation, experiences, tours, food, than just a large investment that takes up everything.

[Richard Bexon]

[Gustavo Segura]
So I'm completely in love with our model of development for tourism and how it impacts other areas.

[Richard Bexon]
I agree. And I'll fight for it, man. And I know you will and so will other people.

So, yeah. Somebody made a comment the other day to me, which was a bit of a, you know, I mean, I understood it was, hey, Rich, all this tourism investment is great, but you're driving locals out and they can't afford, you know, to live in these areas now. And I'm like, well, I think that there is some merit to that, but also is, as they say here in Costa Rica, hay plata en el calle.

There is money in the street now, if that makes sense. That like anyone that wants to start their own business or has an idea now revolving around that, there is a lot more opportunity in those areas. And you mentioned Monteverde, San Carlos, Surialba, like, you know, I mean, those areas have just completely changed over the years.

For the better, I think.

[Gustavo Segura]
I absolutely think so. I mean, it has been very well studied in universities, in papers and in publications that with successful tourism development, along come the problems too. And problems such as, you know, drug consumption, drug distribution, cost of living for a local person, even some models that didn't exist in 15 years ago, such as the platforms or shared space.

I'm talking about Airbnb, VRBO, et cetera. They have an impact also on local living because now it's very, very easy for someone who used to have an apartment and rent it to a local person now to rent it on a fractional level to an international visitor that's willing to pay more. So those are challenges.

We just need to address them well. And with that, I would like to mention that, for instance, in my opinion, there's a great opportunity also in the real estate, not geared towards the super high end. If you go to Buenos Aires, if you go to San Carlos, there's wonderful opportunity now for middle income housing and places that are maybe within 10, 15 miles of where the tourist wants to be and have the experience.

Well, somebody can commute 20, 30 minutes to work if we have more development of those areas where locals can have a good quality of life while at the same time understanding that around the volcano, that's very valuable land and I can't live there. It is a challenge. Not everybody likes it.

I mean, we're reading how Venetia in Italy right now or Rome or Madrid are starting to take measures to fight for mass tourism. But then those are massive destinations. That's why I really don't want to contribute it at any level with Costa Rica becoming a massive destination.

We need to maintain our position as a niche market. But even like that, even as a niche market, I know that you talk to someone who works in Manuel Antonio at a mid-management level position and they can't afford to live right in Manuel Antonio. I mean, they have to go look for housing in Quepos.

Same thing with Arenal, La Fortuna, same thing with Monteverde. It is an effect of the successful results of even niche tourism. But we just need to address them well.

That's my opinion.

[Richard Bexon]
Agree. Well, I mean, look, I mean, a positive way that I've seen some of it is people have started to rent their bedrooms out, say in La Fortuna. You know, a family has a bedroom because a lot of people want to live with Costa Rican families and experience Costa Rican culture.

When there's not tourism, that doesn't happen, if that makes sense. But it does. And now you get to understand other cultures.

You also have an income. And like, again, I think if you're just receptive and open, ideas will come to you or things and needs that people have. And I mean, we know tons of people, Gustavo, that have started their own businesses and have been very, very successful from tourism.

[Gustavo Segura]
Yeah. And that's the other beauty of the model. And I keep going back to that word, the model, the model of tourism.

Well, people come here not for the beautiful white sand, blue water beach, because we don't have those. People come for the experience. And experience is something that changes every day.

Culture changes every day. So it's beautiful to see how nowadays people want to experience, you know, what it is that happens in Nicoya. Why is it called a blue zone?

Why do people live to such old ages with good health? Well, there's a wonderful number of different things that you can design on a business level to experience that. Or dry forest or rainforest biodiversity.

There's so much that we can do. And then there's another whole level, Richard, that I wanted to bring up. It's been coined as not sustainable tourism, but regenerative tourism.

That is a different area, which also comes from a problem, comes from the fact that we're suffering global warming because we haven't, as a human race, done a good job in the last 100, 200 years on keeping our planetary home in good shape. Now, problems, as usual, are bringing opportunities. And I personally think that Costa Rica is kind of a laboratory country in many areas.

We can also be a laboratory country for regenerative development, not just tourism, but regenerative communities, regenerative cultures. And that opens a whole new array of ideas that we can use as businesses to make a better living.

[Richard Bexon]
What do you think the areas of Costa Rica over the next 10 years are going to receive the most investment for Stavo? It's just your opinion.

[Gustavo Segura]
Well, this concept of development zones, we usually call them free zones because of the taxing advantages, but I see them more as development zones. I would love for the coastal and rural areas to get more of those investments. I agree.

Most of it has been concentrated in the Central Valley, in particular in that coyol near the airport area. So I really want to see more investment come to rural communities. But for that, we truly need to work on our education system.

I mean, as beautiful as it was that so many resources went into education after the abolition of the army, I also think that the pandemic left us with a hurt education system. We need to rethink our education system, reinvest in it and go back to wonderful elementary and secondary schools that are more technical oriented in rural areas so that people get the opportunity to work on the kind of investment that comes with free zones or provide services as entrepreneurs to those free zones. But I truly think that with the near shoring trend that we're seeing and the fact that we still have very good quality of labor, if you want to call it like that, or in general education level, by improving it, we're going to make sure that much more investment comes to the rural and coastal areas of Costa Rica.

[Richard Bexon]
What do you think? I've always, you know, Casey and I chat about this a lot of, you know, I was actually chatting with Jim Damales the other day of what about free trade zones for tourism in areas that like is high on employment that like, look, we seem to be giving all this, you know, benefits to a lot of big companies to come here. But if the DNA of this country is niche, how do we create these areas, all these benefits to niche sustainable investors looking to invest in tourism, which I think we can agree is part of the future of this country?

How do we encourage that? Because at the moment, it's not really encouraged, if that makes sense, sometimes.

[Gustavo Segura]
It's very puzzling, because there is a law now, in effect, that was passed in 2021, that encourages the development of tourism free zones called, I mean, the name is tricky, because it's called tourism sustainable theme areas. I mean, you might fall into the risk of calling them theme parks, you know, and it's not that, if you read the law. First, it has to be out of the Central Valley, so it has to be coastal or rural areas.

Second, it has to be geographically concentrated. But three, it has to have solid sustainable foundations. So now we have the legislation in place to move towards that kind of a concept that you mentioned, Richard.

But I don't think as a country, we're doing enough to promote that specific law that is in effect right now. So I think we have the tools now.

[Richard Bexon]
I think it's no different than what Italy did with ecotourism, which was there are tons of people living in these cities, our countryside has a lot of this beauty and this outside, which is the like, again, the DNA of Italy, if you know what I mean, like cities are great, but really, the people are always in the country of like, okay, guys, we'll give you like low interest loans, you can go out and buy these buildings, but you have to use everything locally as well.

And you have to employ everything locally, you know, and they gave them breaks after breaks after breaks in order to do that. So you have this whole network of these ecotourism models in Italy. I would love to see a little bit more of that in Costa Rica.

And it sounds like the foundation is there. It's just that the pieces quite haven't come together.

[Gustavo Segura]
Yeah. And there's a whole area in which private investment can also be of great help. You know, I've always had this motto of when I participated in in board of directors of private sector chambers, I was the Vice President of the Hotel Association at some point, you know, I always called upon my colleagues to say, let's not just complain about what the government isn't doing.

But let's also come up with ideas of what we can do to cover those shortcomings. Because in the end, this is a developing country, this is not a rich country yet. I mean, it can be done, but we're not.

So by promoting that in these areas where you can have investment that uses local sourcing, etc., do a few more things. Let's say, you know, you have to open up a school, you have to, you know, go beyond the basic level and provide English education, language education, technology, alphabetization, etc. You can use those tools to foster investment.

I think the private sector has a lot, a huge role to play. And it's like a new level of corporate social responsibility, you know. And that's just, it's beautiful when I see employees of a company go paint a school, that's great.

Yeah, but that's not doesn't change the life of the kids going to that school. It's going way beyond very specific efforts in doing truly corporate social responsibility.

[Richard Bexon]
It's funny, I was in Dominicalito the other day, I hadn't actually been through the town, like I'd kind of been around there, but like driving past and I was in there with one of the locals there. And he was just telling me about everything they've done in that area for the kids and the schools. And they have a community center now and they clean up the roads.

And like, you know, it's, I was like, I mean, literally just off the main highway, you can go and see that. And you know, the client I was with ended up actually like loving that story and buying, made an offer on a piece of land there to be like, I want to be part of that community. Yeah, it was just interesting, like how, you know, the community got together to do it.

[Gustavo Segura]
I tell you, it's the magic that happens. It's beautiful. Let me, I'm going to mention the example of the company that I am, I have the honor of being the CEO of Memorable Travel Group.

And this is a company that needs intensive human resources. That's, we're not intensive in capital, in assets, we're intensive in service and services, you know, thank God still provided by humans. And we have a, you know, a large chunk of our business happening in Guanacaste and we're seeing a lack of good education, technical education in Guanacaste.

So again, we started a program in which instead of doing very punctual efforts, we decided to go and team up with the Sardinal Technical School. It's a high school that graduates technical level students and we're strengthening their programs for English language, soft skills, and technological alphabetization. And then a fourth one, which is in general, the knowledge of tourism, because Sardinia is in the middle of the action that's happening right now. It's within 10 miles of the new Ritz-Carlton, the new world of Astoria, the new Discovery Project, Papagayo Peninsula, et cetera, et cetera.

So those kids are seeing things happening in front of their eyes that are mind-blowing. It's world-class investment coming to their home. And so we're trying to help them be better prepared to reap the benefits of that, not just having a good job, which is great, but opening your eyes beyond that and being able to provide services that can make them become entrepreneurs and develop true wealth.

And I'm not saying they need to be super rich, but true wealth to have a better quality of life. The government right now is not filling those gaps. So as a company, we decided to do our part.

And this is not a just one-off effort. It's an effort that takes the whole year. It's a program with KPIs in which all of the management of our company participates.

And we can't do it by ourselves. We also need to coordinate with the local Ministry of Education authorities, the authorities of the school themselves, and most importantly, the parents of the kids attending the school. And we see beautiful things happening now.

I wanted to mention that because I'm experiencing that myself here in Memorable.

[Richard Bexon]
Well, good for you, man. I mean, I think there's nothing more fulfilling than seeing other people succeed. I always say, and people have heard it a lot, the tide rises, all boats rise.

And I think that that's our job. And I think that's something unique here in Costa Rica is there is a tendency between tourism to band together when necessary and see that tide rise. And I think we definitely saw that during the pandemic.

And you kind of led that flag running into that one for us, Gustavo. So the country owes you a debt of gratitude for that. So thank you for that.

But I mean, just going back to areas, I mean, what areas of Costa Rica do you think over the next 10 years we'll see the most development?

[Gustavo Segura]
Okay. Okay. Yeah, I didn't specifically answer that.

Thank you for the comment of my role in the pandemic.

[Richard Bexon]
But we couldn't have done it without you, buddy. We could not have done it without you.

[Gustavo Segura]
Thank you so much. It was truly an honor. And it was a wonderful way for me to pay back a little bit of all the wonderful things that the industry has given me and my family for so many years.

Specific areas. Well, I would love to see areas that are close enough to the hotspots develop so they can alleviate the demand pressure for the hotspots. Let me give you an example.

Manuel Antonio is under a lot of pressure, a lot of demand pressure. And you see it now when you go into the national park, it's not such a beautiful experience anymore. So I would love to see the South Coast of Costa Rica, Dominical, Uvita, that area developing more as a way to take some pressure off of Manuel Antonio.

In that regard, I think Osa Peninsula is going to be more and more on the spot. I truly want Osa Peninsula to remain low key, low demand level, because it is particularly fragile in terms of biodiversity. Then we've been mentioning the phenomenon that R&L Volcano created 25 years ago has moved into the fact that people are now discovering that we have such a beautiful experience as well near the Miravalles Volcano, the Tenorio Volcano.

So that area is now called Tapir Valley because there's a large population of tapirs that you can see in that area. I think there's going to be more activity coming to that Tapir Valley area as an extension of the experience that you have in La Fortuna. And I hope it reaches Los Chiles in San Carlos, because that's also an area that is beautiful and has amazing biodiversity, but it's in great need for human development as well.

And then there's Guanacaste as a huge province with a lot of concentration of development in Papagayo and Tamarindo when you have northern Guanacaste just as beautiful and southern Guanacaste just as beautiful as well. And then I'm going to mention Limon. Limon has its own challenges that are different than the rest of the country.

I think Limon, in order to develop needs an international airport that works. It does have an international airport. The Limon airport has international level category, but airlines don't fly there because there's a lot of risks of flooding when it rains.

The airport is in a place where flooding happens. So I truly think that we need once and for all a development plan for Limon that along with an airport then the investment will come and we will see more opportunities for Limon because it's a beautiful area for beautiful people that still does not enjoy the benefit of tourism development. And that's when that's where the bad guys, you know, fill in the blanks.

And I really would love to see Limon embracing future with a better outcome.

[Richard Bexon]
I agree, you know, quite a few people are like, hey Rich, why don't you cover more of, you know, Puerto Viejo, Cahuita and everything. And I'm like, well, I mean, I would if anyone wants to come on the podcast and chat about it. You know, we just don't see that much demand for it compared to the Pacific.

It's all comes down to risk and return, you know, and like the risk is a little higher. The returns can be good and they've been getting better. I mean, we've started to see these mid-level hotels, as you know, Agua Caladas, you know, kind start to come through and grab those ADRs, but it still was a lot of, you know, $100, sub $100 a night.

So as an investor, you're like, I could do that or I could do the Pacific area or like a developed area where the risk is lower, my returns are a little bit better. And like, you have to really love that area to want to invest in that area.

[Gustavo Segura]
You have to love it. I believe that for instance, as a DMC, I'm trying to promote much more the experiences of that area because first it's super rich in culture. It's a different culture.

It's the Caribbean, Costa Rican, you know, it's the Caribbean, Costa Rican that has been influenced by the arrival of Jamaican people 300 years ago. So it's a different flavor of food. It's a different style of life.

I love our Limon province, but at the same time, it has the largest challenges for social progress in the country and it makes up for more risk investment. But in terms of experience, it's one of the most beautiful areas in the country. I would really like to see more development come to Limon.

[Richard Bexon]
I agree. I always say that like, it's like mixing Costa Rica and the Caribbean into like a cocktail mix and shaking it up. I mean, it's truly unique.

And for people, sometimes they're like, Rich, I've kind of done the beaches, I've done Monteverde and Arenal, where else should I go? You know, I'm either like, you need to go to the Dota, like, you know, Perezaleon area, San Isidro, Chiripo, or go to Limon, like, or do both. There's just, the connection is just a little difficult sometimes as well.

[Gustavo Segura]
Yeah, yeah, yeah. And then, the other area that we're beginning to see more action on is the coffee country of Costa Rica, right? You just mentioned Dota.

There are some local coffee farms that are now internationally famous for the quality of product that they develop. And new, very innovative and creative experiences are coming to the area. And I know very well the Copay winery estate, for instance.

I was about to say, we have a great winery now. It's amazing. And you go to that place and you see something world-class going on.

There's an experience in an area that is dramatically beautiful in terms of the location. The people in those areas are super clean people, you know, honest, hardworking, beautiful people. So, that's another area where I would love to see more investment come.

There are some flagship projects there already in the Santa Maria de Dota and, you know, Quetzalcoatl, as I call it as well. But that's another area that deserves much more investment. There's plenty of opportunity.

[Richard Bexon]
I'm doing a Yurk project in Santa Maria de Dota, which is my passion project, because I have no cell phone reception on my land, which I love. If I walk 200 meters out, I get it. But like, as I get older, I might, and actually, I speak to a lot of investors, they're like, well, Rich, I kind of just want a place to escape to.

Am I correct in saying that you want a place where you can be present and your cell phone doesn't work? And they're like, yeah, that's exactly what I want. You know, and that's one of the areas where it's just, that whole mountain range is spectacular.

[Gustavo Segura]
It's just, you know, it's amazing. And truth be said, it's not as difficult to get as other parts of the country. I agree.

You know, within, you know, if you're in San Jose, within 90 minutes, you're there in the Copay State Winery or in San Gerardo or in, you know, all that beautiful coffee country. And that's another area where I think this law that I mentioned earlier of geographic out of the Central Valley tourism investment concepts can really have an impact on local social progress. I agree.

[Richard Bexon]
I agree. Well, Gustavo, I've kept you long enough. This has been amazing.

But my last question for you, sir, which I'd love to ask everyone, if you inherited $500,000 and you had to invest it into a business or into real estate or tourism here in Costa Rica, what would you invest it in and why?

[Gustavo Segura]
Wow, that's a tough one. But right now we're seeing a search into a particular kind of tourism that mixes, I don't want to mention, say specifically the word luxury, but it's high level tourism with a true interest in the experience, in the sustainable local experience. So I wouldn't say investing luxury tourism in the all model, because those tourists that we're seeing come to Costa Rica have luxury in their homes, understood as, you know, I don't know, marble floors in their restroom.

I would say invest in experiences geared toward the highly educated visitor that really wants a rich, you know, living opportunity, a rich cultural, natural experience in Costa Rica. It's a market that's growing. I mean, it's going to be spurred even further with the arrival of these brands, Ritz Carlton, Waldorf, etc, etc.

Those are brands, by the way, that add value to the country because they come and do tourism, the Costa Rican one. It's not a Ritz in a Caribbean island. It's a Ritz in Guanacaste.

Do it the local way.

[Richard Bexon]
This country, unfortunately, there only is one way, which is the Costa Rican way. Like do not try to swim against that current because it will take you away.

[Gustavo Segura]
So in that regard, I would invest in providing services to those new, you know, trendy investments that are here to stay, in my opinion. I agree.

[Richard Bexon]
I agree. Well, Gustavo, as I said, this has been an honor and an absolute pleasure to get you on the podcast. For anyone that wants to learn more about Gustavo, I'll put all of his details in the description down below.

But very much appreciate you joining us on the 200th episode, sir.

[Gustavo Segura]
Thank you. Congratulations on this effort that you're doing because it helps all of us educate ourselves better, have a broader international mindset, which is very important. And keep doing what you're doing for the industry, Richard.

Thank you. And I'm honored to be here. Thank you.

Let's Get in Touch!

A Former Costa Rica Tourism Minister who steered CR through the Pandemic and is now the CEO of Travel Company Memorable Costa Rica, Gustavo Segura, chats with us about why Costa Rica is a great place to invest and explains what makes this country unique.

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