In an effort to encourage domestic tourism, Ecuador’s Ministry of Transport and Tourism Ministry teamed up with Tame Airlines to convince competition winners they were actually in Costa Rica.
Forty tourists took the flight to “Costa Rica” which, after a circuitous route, landed back in Ecuador. At the airport passengers filled out fake arrival forms, passed through customs and even had their passports stamped.
The airport was decked out in Costa Rican paraphernalia, including posters for the national beer, Imperial, and “Esencial Costa Rica” advertisements. Costa Rican souvenirs and postcards were for sale in the stores. Beyond the airport, the team behind the ruse produced fake number plates and transit signs. GPS and cellphone jammers were used to keep tourists from discovering anything untoward.
After a tour of white-water rafting, swimming, and hiking, the tour group returned to the airport where an “Esencial Costa Rica” banner was torn down to reveal the Ecuadorean “Love Life” tourism slogan.
A promotional video of the tour was posted online, but quickly removed after protests from Costa Rican authorities.
Costa Rica’s acting Foreign Minister Alejandro Solano expressed the government’s concerns about the campaign. The Costa Rican Tourism Ministry said Ecuador agreed to release an official apology for the campaign.