Medical Tourism dollars pouring into Costa Rica
The powers that be have obviously decided that medical tourism is coming, they are talking in very loud voices and they are talking with their wallets. Billions of dollars are on the table right now for projects in various parts of the country.
INFRASTRUCTURE GAINING GROUND IN COSTA RICA
I can remember when I first moved to Costa Rica 7 years ago, one of the things I often overheard people saying that were considering Costa Rica was “Yes Costa Rica is interesting from an investing standpoint, but the problem is there’s no Infrastructure.” Infrastructure seemed to be the hot word of the day when talking about Costa Rica, people just seemed to love rolling it off their tongue, and you heard it everywhere. Bottom line is it started to become overused. However they were right, roads were in miserable condition many of today’s popular beaches like playa Grande and others were inaccessible during the rainy season. Main roads were full of dreadful potholes making travel within the country challenging. The new international airport in Liberia was handling three new international carrier flights per week and this was taxing them. Hospital and doctor facilities were bare to nonexistent in the beach areas, materials for building were scarce and prohibitively expensive. I often heard Tourists muttering under their breath about never coming back, mainly because of the roads. Guanacaste was really quite primitive.
One of the big considerations in my move to the Flamingo, Tamarindo area was my research which found that Real Estate within a 40 mile radius of an international airport is over time the best performing real estate demographic there is. My thinking was like this “Ok here we have a new international airport, and across the street, here we have cows grazing. Looked like ground floor to me. The other consideration was I loved the fact that the map showed that Playa Potrero was a dead end on the map with miles of undeveloped beachfront and jungle just waiting to be explored. So I jumped in the jeep with my dog Seikan and drove from Boston to Potrero and set up home there without ever having specifically seen Potrero. That journey will be a story for another day.
The point of this piece is that infrastructure has become a hot topic once again however this time in a very positive light and it has broad sweeping ramifications for the future of Costa Rica and for our scope of vision today; Guanacaste.
The most promising and grand change that is taking place in Guanacaste today and which will cement the Guanacaste area of Costa Rica as a true retirement, and alternative lifestyle destination is the construction of the new $160 Million dollar Cima hospital annex just outside of Liberia and only a few miles from the aforementioned International Airport. Yes there are a still a few cows left across the road but they are now sharing the area with several grand hotels, commercial centers, great import export warehouses, and of course several hundred tacky billboards: More about that in a minute.
Many changes in Guanacaste are purely observational but welcome indeed. I can remember driving one night in the last year or so and being surprised to find not only reflectors but painted white lines with passing channels and everything. I must have missed this during the day. Driving at night has always been a slightly harrowing experience as the drivers are just plain bad, but without street lights or ambient lighting, and having no lines or reflectors even empty roads were something of a challenge. One good friend many years back had a near life ending collision with a cow. Very dangerous hence the reason I try to stay in at night. However right around the time Oscar Arias acceded to the presidency I remember the roads in Guanacaste began a steady course towards improvement and today I dare say very good quality. The road to Playa Grande has been paved. I am sure some of the old hands can remember (attempting) to fishtail their way out there during the rainy season. Of course the only thing missing as we all know are curbs and sidewalks to prevent people getting run over all the time. Supposedly coming Manana. Needless to say Oscar Arias and many in government were smart enough to know that Tourism dollars are the number one source of revenue for this country including tax revenue. Thankfully for all of us they figured out where the bread was buttered.
One of my first ventures in Costa Rica was a small Internet café in Brasilitio. I can remember trying to run ten computers with a 128k ISDN modem, and at the time even that was new and impressive. Well we have since graduated to high speed cable access and the country is current laying out a nationwide fiber optic data transfer network. Even out here in the sticks the guys are laying in the fiber optic cable. This project which is code named “Frontera a Frontera” (Border to Border) is an immense project, and is being implemented by an Israeli Telecommunications company. ICE expects the project to be complete during the first three months of next year; so far, workers have laid 40% of the fiber-optic network, which will expand from the northern border town of Peñas Blancas to Paso Canoas, in the Southern Zone, and from the Caribbean port of Limón to the central Pacific city of Quepos. Considering that Costa Rica is the landing point for the Pan American Crossing submarine cables that provide links to South and Central America, parts of the Caribbean, and the US, the completion of this project means Costa Rica will be officially “Hooked Up” with the latest telecommunication Infrastructure. This is a giant leap into the 21st century and credit must be given to forward thinking members of Government.
Yet the biggest news for the future of tourism and development in the beach areas of Guanacaste are several projects that revolve around and include Grupo Do It, the well known developers behind the Do It Center in Liberia. Hospital Cima broke ground on November 2nd after many delays on a $160 million dollar project that includes 42 spaces for private clinics and other retail outlets. A grand total of 220,000 square meters will be developed in stages over a period of several years. The hospital will be located at the entrance of a housing development called Pacific Plaza, adjacent to the Do-it Center, designed to be a place that specializes in integrated health services to a retirement community. Above left is the rendered view of the completed project.
A similar project proposed by Clinica Biblica in association with Sun Ranch retirement community (another Grupo Do It offshoot) includes some 50 acres destined for the state of the art Clinica Biblica Hospital with assisted living and long term care, including 200 rooms, with one wing specially designed for after care / post operative recovery. This project is far reaching in scope and also includes a Casino, restaurants, and a convention center., also 15 acres for a branded medical/hotel Spa, wellness center, pools and other first class amenities and lastly 500 acres for the Robert Trent Jones Jr. designed championship golf course with luxury hotels and residential development. While this project appears to currently be on hold according to Sun Ranch the project is still a go.
So what does it all mean for Costa rica and specifically Guanacaste?
The central valley is ahead of most parts of the country in regards to infrastructural development Rebecca Clower of Blue Water Properties of Costa Rica in Northern Guanacaste welcomes the construction of a multimillion dollar annex to Hospital Cima in San Jose. “Bringing modern medical facilities to this area coupled with the major expansion of the Daniel Obuder International Airport close by and couple this with the great job the government has been doing on public road system of late, changes the whole picture for Guanacaste Real Estate. Our last big boom cycle here were vacation and second home owners using equity lines of credit. Now we are seeing a different type of client; people who are looking for a dream that is no longer affordable in the U.S. This is leading to a more stable and sustainable growth pattern here in Guanacaste and the beach area in general. New roads have opened up areas here that were not accessible before and today a spectacular ocean view lot can once again be had for under 100k.
Costa Rica has weathered some boom and bust cycles but is finally gearing up to retain the honor of being the top destination in Central America. An intelligent eye to infrastructure, private investment in hospitals and other infrastructure projects has brought this country a very long way in ten years. Couple that with equilibrium of sorts on Real Estate prices and Costa Rica becomes an excellent possibility for people considering an alternative, more affordable lifestyle. Infrastructure has finally gained ground in Costa Rica.