Medical Tourism Facilitators in Costa Rica
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Liberia International Airport (LIR)
Guanacaste was once known as the “forgotten province” of Costa Rica. This former territory of Nicaragua did not manage to see too much in the way of development in comparison to other provinces until about the mid-1970s, when President Daniel Oduber launched a series of initiatives to help the people of Guanacaste grow with the times. Ever since then, Guanacaste has become a shining example of progressive development, and the Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport in Liberia is a testament to just how far the region has come.
The airport is popularly known as Liberia International, and its three-letter International Air Transport Code is LIR. There are three other international airports in the country, but only LIR and the Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) are of significance for medical tourists. SJO experiences far more activity than LIR, but it is estimated that in the next few years LIR could see about half of the passenger and air traffic activity as SJO. You can find flight arrival and departure times by clicking the corresponding topic in this sentence, updated daily.
Choosing LIR over SJO
Tourists who arrive in Costa Rica for the first time will more than likely land at SJO. Many other experienced tourists, however, fly straight into LIR for their second and subsequent visits. There are a few reasons why savvy tourists prefer landing at LIR versus SJO. The first reason is a matter of convenience: Guanacaste is home to many popular beach resorts and national parks, and LIR is only a few kilometers away from most tourist attractions. Another reason is that, although San José is a small metropolis in comparison to New York or Toronto, it can be a little hectic at times. Liberia and the surrounding communities are some of the most tranquil places on earth, and thus some tourists may wish to skip landing at SJO in favor of LIR. Medical tourists now have one more reason to make their way to Costa Rica via LIR: the new CIMA Hospital in Liberia will be opening its doors to patients in February 2012. While Liberia and Guanacaste already have a few medical facilities, the new CIMA Hospital will be dedicated to the burgeoning medical tourism industry.
Once medical attention begins in earnest at the new Liberia CIMA Hospital, medical vacations in Costa Rica are expected to increase. The CIMA Hospital in San José already treats hundreds of medical tourists each day, and thus it is expected that more tourists will wish to take advantage of their new option up north. Since the new CIMA in Liberia will be located next door to the airport, it is possible for tourists to step out of the airplane and walk to their scheduled appointments.
As the ultimate destination for ecotourism, Costa Rica is ideal for tourists who don’t mind their vacations being a little rough around the edges. Medical tourists, however, need comfort and relaxation to prepare for their procedures and for their recovery periods as well. This is one of the reasons why Guanacaste is positioning itself as the best option for medical tourists in Costa Rica. Patients can not only walk to the CIMA Hospital upon arrival, they can also stay at the well-appointed Hilton Garden Inn right across the road. Notable resort developers from around the world have set their sights on Guanacaste, and to that extent there are many tropical beach resorts by Four Seasons, Hilton, Marriott, and Westin located just a short drive away from LIR.
Flying into LIR
The number of airline carriers operating in LIR is growing and changing. Budget airlines and specialized carriers dominate the list of flight operators, and there is a strong focus in bringing tourists from locations other than the traditional major airports of the world. Many of these operators fly on seasonal basis, and the LIR administration is constantly closing contracts with new airlines, so medical tourists are advised to check with their facilitators to help them make arrangements for flying into Liberia.
Canadian airlines flying into LIR include Air Canada, Air Transat, Jazz Air (Thomas Cook), Sunwing, and Enerjet. Depending on the season, these airlines may originate their flights from Toronto Pearson, Pierre Elliott Trudeau in Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, and Vancouver.
From the United States, Continental offers regular service from Houston, while Delta flies in from Atlanta and American Airlines from Dallas and Miami. These aren’t necessarily daily flights, so it’s good to check in advance. The following airlines offer seasonal flights from different locations in the United States: JetBlue – New York, United Airlines – Chicago, Frontier Airlines – Denver, USA 3000 – St. Louis, Nomads – Orlando, and US Airways – Charlotte.
European travelers are incrasingly getting more options for flying to LIR. Current operators include: Air Berlin from Dusseldorf, Arkefly from Amsterdam, Jetairfly from Brussels, Thomson Airways from Gatwick, and Czech Airlines from Prague.
Landing at LIR
Unlike its utilitarian sister airport in San José, LIR is being transformed into a world-class passenger air terminal. Plans for expansion include duty-free shops, restaurants and other passenger amenities. The flow of travelers will be redesigned so that those who are departing or arriving have their own separate terminals for doing so. Parking and ground transportation facilities are also being improved, and it is expected that LIR will soon be larger and more modern than SJO.
Passenger traffic at LIR is increasing, but nowhere close to the heavy influx of travelers that SJO experiences. Landing at LIR is a lot more efficient and laid back than arriving in SJO. The airport is designed to provide comfort to passengers and alleviate some of the stress that is often associated with international air travel.
While Guanacaste expects a significant increase in tourism thanks to LIR, the community is getting ready for a new transformation: many tourists have been drawn to the region’s desirable climate, spectacular beaches and relaxed lifestyle. As a result, many travelers are opting for longer stays and some are even choosing to become full time residents. One visit to the region and it is easy to see why many celebrities such as Mel Gibson have decided to homestead in Guanacaste.