Marketing Lessons from an Inefficient Costa Rican Airport

Costa Rica, view from Papagayo Bay. It's awfully nice.

Costa Rica, view from Papagayo Bay. It’s awfully nice.

Almost anyone would agree Costa Rica is a beautiful country, replete with rainforests, volcanoes, a perfect climate, and picturesque vistas. It’s also home to a hopelessly inefficient airport that dampens any joy a traveler might feel upon arrival. Since breaking onto the international scene in 2002 with the arrival of Delta Airlines, the Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport in Liberia has opened up a new world for Costa Rican tourism. The sandy beaches of the northwestern Guanacaste province were suddenly accessible from the airport (previously, it was an arduous five-hour drive from the capital, San Jose). Let’s hope the airport’s current expansion project helps it improve. But in the interim, there are three major marketing lessons we can learn from it.

1. Customers Hate to Be Confused. The roof is tin. There’s no air conditioning, and the building appears to be a sort of open-to-the-elements warehouse. That’s cool. It’s all part of the charm of exploring new places. There are many things travelers can enjoy, even ones that in our home countries might be bizarre or annoying. But one thing no traveler can countenance is confusion. Waiting in line isn’t too much of a problem if you can read a book or chat with your companions. That isn’t possible, however, when you’re jockeying for position in the customs line against a horde of people surging forward from 10 different directions. Relaxation isn’t an option. Similarly, we need to look at our own companies and ask ourselves: are our processes clear for customers? How can we simplify things? What’s confusing, and how can we remedy it?

Want to read about the other marketing lessons? Check out the full Huffington Post article.

Dorie Clark is CEO of Clark Strategic Communications and the author of the forthcoming What’s Next?: The Art of Reinventing Your Personal Brand (Harvard Business Review Press, 2012). She is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, the National Park Service, and Yale University. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.