When only eight people had showed up to the Annual Assembly of Samara’s Chamber of Tourism, CASATUR, scheduled for 3 p.m. on March 6, the members of the board all resigned. A few more people showed up after 4 p.m., bringing the total attendance to 12, but the low attendance highlights the problem that motivated the board’s decision: lack of support and participation.
CASATUR currently has 48 associated businesses, perhaps around half of the community businesses, but of these only a handful go above and beyond paying the annual fee. For example, only 10 businesses and 6 individuals participated in the 2013 cleaning program.
Here we recognize the four active board members of CASATUR who have worked hard for the community for years: President Marco Carmona, Vice President Giancarlo Capponi, Secretary and Treasurer Carolina Alvarez, and Vocal Laura Ellington.
The chamber was first formed in 1998, with Carmona as president and Capponi as vice president. In 2001, Carmona resigned from his position at Villas Playa Samara and left the chamber. For another year, the chamber continued working, but then Capponi went back to Italy and the chamber died off. It was revived in 2008, with the return of both Carmona and Capponi and an effort to regain the Ecological Blue Flag.
They succeeded in earning the flag for the southern portion of the beach in 2009 and 2010, as well as central Samara Beach in 2011 and 2012, but they lost the flag in 2013 by five points because of contamination in the area in front of the police station and Sherriff Rustic restaurant, according to Carmona.
When asked about some of their accomplishments, the board members provided an itemized list with 44 entries in four categories, including activities to promote tourism, sports and culture, such as promoting Samara online, in publications and through programs like 7 Estrellas (7 Stars) and Vamos a Turistear (Let’s Be Tourists), planning sports events like the triathlon and SAMARUN and attracting cultural activities like Ciclo de Cine (film festival) and Caravana Tica; community and environmental activities like the Ecological Blue Flag program, placement of garbage cans, cleaning of the beach and streets six days a week, campaigns to neuter dogs and cats, planting trees and helping to fix some of the roads and sewage systems in conjunction with the Municipality; promoting security by obtaining a second vehicle for the Samara police, helping to maintain police vehicles, sponsoring meetings with the Public Force, and courses in community security, business security and how to recognize counterfeit money; and educational efforts such as free courses in computers, first aid, tour guides and citizen journalism (in conjunction with The Voice of Guanacaste).
The board has promised to keep working through Easter Week, ensuring that the streets and beaches are clean for the massive influx of tourists, but after that, the Chamber would become inactive.
Carmona explained that the legal identity (personeria juridica) of CASATUR is good for 99 years, so it would be possible to activate the chamber again in the future, or perhaps the members could meet occasionally to maintain the presence of the chamber.
“I really hope wholeheartedly that the associates become aware of what could happen,” Carmona stated, noting the amount of garbage that could pile up without CASATUR’s efforts, since the municipality’s garbage collection in Samara is limited.
Alvarez said they collect 20 to 35 bags full of garbage each week, depending on the time of year, covering the beach from Cangrejal to Mala Noche and periodically past Villas Playa Samara to the end of the beach. They also collect garbage from the roads downtown, in Cangrejal, Canto de los Gavilanes and to the El Torito bridge.
In the future, the board members plan to support the creation of a new integral development association for central Samara, which would receive national financial support. This association has not yet been formed, although Capponi, who is a member of the planning committee for the new development association, assured that they are just waiting on a few signatures to be able to set a date for the assembly to officially form the association, hopefully around mid-April.
Carmona is the only native Costa Rican currently on the board. He works in management at Villas Playa Samara and owns a print shop in Nicoya, which is where he lives. Although he doesn’t live in Samara, he loves this beach town and has worked hard to promote it, making trips to San Jose, Liberia and Playa de Coco for strategic, proactive meetings with officials and organizations like the program Playas Seguras (Safe Beaches).
Greatest Satisfaction: CASATUR arranged for two courses on traditional foods and drinks that caught the interest of local youth and had great participation. Carmona believes that this is the kind of activity needed in Samara.
Samara’s Greatest Need: Find a way to fix the beach contamination to regain the blue flag. This involves getting the reports from AyA (Acueductos y Alcantarillados—Water and Sewage) might involve filing a complaint with the Ministry of Health.
Originally from Italy, Capponi and his business associate operate Hotel Giada, as well as Hotel Samara Inn. He said he began working with CASATUR because he noted needs like the lack of institutions and organizations to address needs like security, the need to promote Samara and the need to collaborate with the community. Since the municipality doesn’t take charge of problems like waste management, then the community has too, he affirmed. He oversaw the recycling center in Samara until it was closed and a recycling collection service was arranged.
Greatest Satisfaction: Having at least tried to plant the idea that there shouldn’t just be a business but rather a community, to contribute to sustainable development of the zone.
Samara’s Greatest Need: The community needs participation and organization more than anything… something we hope to achieve with this Development Association project.
Born in Colombia, Alvarez is manager of the hotel Casa del Mar. In 2008, she saw the beach so dirty, with a dog and turtles dead on the shore, so in an article published in Del Sol, the local tourism magazine, she encouraged people to meet in front of Casa del Mar on a certain day to clean the beach and was pleasantly surprised when people showed up. Since then she has been working with CASATUR to keep the beach clean, seeking out volunteers from the community, from TUCAN (an environmental group in Nicoya) and from local schools as well as universities from Nicoya and San Jose. She also helped organize SAMARUN, an athletic event held on October 12, 2013, that raised funds that paid for painting the school cafeteria and for beach cleanings through February 28. She also collected donations to keep the police station from closing and arranged low-cost castration campaigns.
Greatest Satisfaction: Seeing that people have a little more awareness of where they live. She related that she feels good when people show a spirit of wanting to help, seeking her out to ask when they’re going to clean the beach and telling her to count on them.
Samara’s Greatest Need: There’s a lot of individualism in Samara… Sometimes it’s necessary for people to jump into the water, for people to participate more. If they see that something is wrong, they should say something because this is their town.
Hailing from England, Laura Ellington made her home in Samara in 2004, where she directs the Samara Language School, Intercultura. She began working with CASATUR about two years ago because she saw a need in the community for an organization to work on certain aspects of community development that weren’t being fully taken care of, like community security. Ellington took a lead role in the security committee, hosting countless meetings with officials from the Public Force to bring more security resources to Samara. She also ensured good communication through mass email campaigns, the creation of a Facebook page for CASATUR, collaboration on their website and the creation of the tourist map, among other projects.
Greatest Satisfaction: Being able to hire someone with the CASATUR fees to clean the beach six days per week and being able to help provide free classes for the community in a variety of fields.
Samara’s Greatest Need: The “Manos a la Obra” project is a huge priority. This program through the Mixed Institute of Social Assistance provides government funding for beach cleanups as well as a source of employment and income for people in economic need. This will be managed at no charge by the Asociación CREAR and local community volunteers. Another priority is a park for Samara’s children and youth.