Costa Rica expects to receive 500,000 tourists from North America in the high season that will start on the last weekend of November; a figure that represents around a third of the 1,600,000 visitors to that region of the continent registered before the Coronavirus pandemic.
The data was indicated by the Minister of Tourism, Gustavo Segura Sancho, based on the estimates provided by the airlines on the reopening of borders announced by the Government of the Republic on the previous October 16.
The total number of travelers will change according to the behavior of the European market, to which the president of the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) pointed out as “the slowest to react.”
“There is an interesting situation that is happening in the world right now: tourists from the United States are not currently traveling to Europe, they are favoring shorter trips because it gives them a feeling of greater security. Costa Rica is going to enter soon. In its high tourist season and with the reopening announcements that we have been making, we have observed a very positive reaction in the airline sector, especially in the airlines that travel to the United States”, the Minister pointed out.
He continued, “In conversations with them, they estimate that the decisions that Costa Rica is making could generate a reactivation of air traffic that ranges between 20% and 40% compared to the numbers prior to the Pandemic. Let us remember before the pandemic, 1,350,000 tourists have generated from the United States alone, and 1,600,000 tourists from all of North America,” Segura said.
The Minister’s forecast is that the United States, Canada and Mexico cover approximately 70% of the half million tourists that are waiting. The remaining percentage is expected to be assumed mainly by business travelers from Central America; a sector that is just showing its first signs of reactivation.
“If it is taken into consideration that an average visitor stays in the national territory is between 12 and 15 days, and spends between $ 130 and $ 170 per day, it must be between the end of November and the end of April – a period that typically includes the high season – they will generate about $ 1.5 billion in foreign exchange. The most important fact is that this means the reactivation of the employment of thousands of people, especially in rural communities,” Segura stressed.
The Minister said he is hopeful that this economic generation will be distributed in the 32 tourist regions of Costa Rica; due to the usual behavior of high season visitors, since -as he explained- they usually spend two or three nights in four and six different locations. This factor, would contribute to the reactivation in coastal and mountainous areas of the country, mainly.
Asked about the application of protocols for the prevention of respiratory disease infections, Segura explained that there are 16 approved guidelines, both general and by sector. They were worked on from the beginning of the state of emergency and have the endorsement of the Ministry of Health. Also, the more drastic shutdown periods, between May and July, allowed companies to implement the plans in a comprehensive manner.
In this sense, the President of the Institute of Tourism highlighted that during the last six weeks there have been 150 visits to hotels, restaurants, and tour operators, in which compliance with the application of the protocols was verified. He also recalled that Costa Rica obtained the safe travel seal, granted by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC, for its acronym in English), which in turn has allowed the institution to grant recognition to 80 of 173 companies applicants. In the sector, there are around 6,000 companies registered.
An open dialogue
Segura was also asked about the movements aimed at denying the pandemic or the protocols to prevent its spread, to which he indicated: “I believe that more than fear, our responsibility is to carry a very responsible message that we are in time of a pandemic”.
“And to avoid contagion, not only from tourists, but from Costa Ricans, we have to adopt the protocols. Here we are not going to lower our guard in that intense process of communication with private, regional and national chambers, in the messages we publish on our social networks because tourism is really a tool for social progress in Costa Rica”.
“It is a tool that we currently have at our disposal to reactivate employment, but it must be used accompanied by that responsibility So, somehow, a denier becomes an enemy of employment, right. And what we have to do is carry that message one and again of responsibility and compliance with the protocols”.
The minister recalled that breach of protocols can lead to legal actions, but stressed that on the part of the entity he presides, the role is more preventive than punitive.
When asked if an eventual deepening of the health crisis would lead to resuming restrictions or closures to the sector, the hierarch replied: “It is very difficult to give an answer to that because they are scenarios that precisely our fight is not to continue”.
“And it is in the the hands of the Costa Rican, the tourism business, the agricultural business, etc. The adoption of protocols so that we do not reach those scenarios. Without a doubt, it is not that we are immune to those scenarios, but in these moments of such an important need to reactivate employment, I prefer to focus on the positive and think that Costa Rica is in a healthy position to reactivate tourism employment,” he concluded.