Mittwoch, 22. Juni 2011

Pura Vida Costa Rica - the place with the happiest people on earth and online usage still in development!

I already published two interviews from Costa Rica. Even the country is very small compared to all others I have visited - the economic growth offline and online will probably increase a lot during the next couple of years. Even our Federal President was surprised how far developed the country already is as he visited Costa Rica a couple of weeks ago.

One of my last interview partners during my 2 months travel in South- and Central America was Alberto Arguedas - Director of the German Chamber of Commerce (AHK) in Costa Rica. The main task of the Chamber is the same as in Argentina and Chile.
Mr. Arguedas provided a comprehensive overview about the online activities of the chamber itself as well as the general development in Costa Rica from different perspectives.

Own online services and activities

The AHK Costa Rica is the 2nd biggest Chamber in Central America and has around 110 members already. They establish themselves with online activities as a pioneer in whole Central America already. The team of Mr. Arguedas use the corporate AHK content management system Typo 3 and they are able to create their own structure and contents. In the meantime they offer a lot of information brochures and presentations which is appreciated by members and visitors. 

So far the website is only used as information platform. There is no suitable payment system available at the moment but this could change shortly with the customized system of AHK in New York. Then it is even imaginable that you can apply online for membership or buying services like address research, contact data or available market studies. The website itself is very good SEO optimized already. SEM – as everywhere in South / Central America – is not necessary at all so far.

AHK Costa Rica organizes a lot of different events for members to set up and enlarge the business network nationwide and internationally. These events are published with regular member-newsletters and within the news area of the website. For the future they even think about to buy a fitting CRM software to handle the whole organization process in a far easier way.

The AHK offers a huge network of business contacts from different branches and countries. Due to the size of Costa Rica and the fact that “everyone knows everyone” local ads of small and medium enterprises on search engines are not that common. So it is far more likely to call the directory service number or ordering addresses from AHK as searching in the internet. In Europe it is exactly the other way around.

The usage of social networks is far more intensively as in many other organizations. Twitter is the main channel for the AHK Costa Rica to provide press releases. Famous newspapers are followers and get updated via Twitter. Even Facebook is not used that intensively compared to the activities on Twitter. Facebook is mainly used for event communication and is updated more or less twice a week with some local news.

General country overview

As already mentioned the happiest people around the planet live in Costa Rica. (see results of this study here) They do not use internet that much so far as in other parts of the world. Only 30% of the inhabitants have regular access to internet. This is one of the reasons why many local companies do not use this channel intensively at the moment. Mouth-to-mouth contact or requests are far more common. B2C communication starts slowly to rise up internet activities – for example in areas like ticketing or buying supermarket items. But people are still afraid to provide payment details on the online channel.

So far German companies are not really present in Costa Rica. Due to the history the country is very strong influenced by US. Especially banana companies like DOLE or Chiquita invest a lot at the beginning and paved the way for a strong partnership with US. You can even pay in Dollars where ever you are and cash machines provide Dollar notes as official payment currency. But first activities – even from European companies - are starting. CR is a stable politically and economically country. Therefore some companies are even shift their headquarters in Central America to Costa Rica (e.g. Bayer).

Strong developed sectors are software development, silicone-export (that's why it gets the name Silicon Valley of Central America:-)), medical or service centers for financial US companies. It is already established as the hightech-place No. 1 in Central America.
The logistic situation is great due to the main hub of TACA-Airline and due to 2 ports on 2 oceans in such a small country. In the last couple of years a free trade area was declared with a lot of economically strong nations around the globe. Costa Rica is also one of the few countries, who has a positive trade balance with China.
Continental invested a lot during the last couple of years. This is probably just a starting point for many followers in upcoming years.
Costa Ricas famous reputation around the globe is also their eco-friendly way of living and orientation. According to this Ticos want to be the first CO2 free country in 2021. So far 95% of power generation comes already from renewable energy. As I was driving through I saw a lot of wind generation plants.

I was also surprised to hear that no army exists anymore. These savings are used for setting up a professional education and medical sector which is already on a great way. Schools and universities can be accessed by everyone. All working inhabitants can also visit a doctor without paying additional fees for the treatment. I mean these kind of systems are similar to German processes but at least I did not expect such a strong development already.

To sum up it can be said that direct investments in Costa Rica as well as exports have increased a lot during the last couple of years. Online activity in the B2B area is still not so far developed because the behavior of setting up business within the country is different to Europe. In my personal opinion, I guess it will grow far more intensively as soon as more foreign investors appear and get across their usual way of providing information and this is rarely without internet presence in the meantime.

But regardless of all online activities (I mentioned it a lot already:-)) Costa Rica is a beautiful country to visit and I provided with all three interviews all necessary information to have a lot of country specific knowledge (AHK Costa Rica), to get support by organizing the trip (Costa Rican Trails) and have a reliable car to travel around (SIXT). All organizations do not even sit far away and know each other which proves the whole mechanism I described above.

Thanks and Pura Vida to Mr. Arguedas for all the interesting information you offered!
Follow the links for further information to: Investing in Costa Rica and press release of the visit of Germans Federal President Christian Wulff

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