Qualitas, Mexico’s largest automobile insurer, has reportedly indicated that it is considering expanding its operations into Costa Rica and Panama. The announcement comes on the heels of Qualitas’ entry into the insurance market in El Salvador at the beginning of December. Referring to the more than year and a half it took for Qualitas to obtain authorization in El Salvador, company CFO Wilfrido Castillo reportedly commented that the company hopes authorization would come more quickly in Panama and Costa Rica. To date, despite expressions of interest by a number of companies, the Insituto Nacional de Seguros remains the only authorized insurer in Costa Rica.

Mixed news was also released recently concerning Costa Rica’s economic prospects for the coming year.

Procomer, the country’s foreign trade promoter, announced that 20 foreign companies are in the process of seeking authorization to establish operations in Costa Rica’s free trade zones in the coming year. 25 foreign companies established such operations in Costa Rica last year, with 17 companies establishing service businesses and 8 establishing manufacturing plants. Emmanuel Hess, the general manager of Procomer, also reportedly stated that the agency expects foreign direct investment in the country to top $2 billion in the coming year.

On the other hand, the Comision Economica para America Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL) announced that it expects Central America and the Caribbean to be the regions hardest hit by decreasing tourism due to the economic crisis in Europe and the United States. CEPAL noted that the regions experienced a marked decline in tourism beginning in June of this year and that it expects tourism growth in the region to remain flat.