The Minister of Tourism of Costa Rica, William Rodríguez López, stressed this Friday that the country has a “successful” tourism plan consolidated as a “state policy” and has defended that sustainability is “absolutely necessary” for the future promote “social tourism” that respects the environment and local populations.
This was stated during the presentation event in Madrid of the next ISTO World Social Tourism Congress, which will be held in October in Costa Rica. Rodríguez has highlighted the “collaborative” work in achieving the presidency of the Tourism and Sustainability Commission of UN Tourism and has ruled out that advances in the matter are the result of the work of “a single government or a specific person.”
“It has been the work of many governments and many people,” he pointed out before emphasizing the need to prevent the tourism issue from becoming a “government policy.” In this sense, he applauded Costa Rica’s efforts and highlighted that the country has been “recognized worldwide for its nature-based tourism development model.”
“We have to take advantage of nature, in the good sense of the word, so that it continues to be the raw material that allows us to follow the path we follow to this day. And iodine, it must be said without any shame, it is a successful path,” has said. “Now we are going to talk to the countries that make up UN Tutirmos, we are going to be the voice of those countries, of the whole world, and that fills us with pride but it also fills us with a responsibility that we have to assert. (… )
A lot to improve
We still have a lot of room to improve and we recognize it,” he said. For the Costa Rican minister, there is a collective awareness of the need to invest in sustainable tourism worldwide, although he regretted that this comes up against the “difficulty of moving from criteria to management”. “That is something we have learned although it has cost a lot.”
“Costa Rica’s concept of sustainability began in 1948, when it decided to abolish the Army and allocate those resources that would have been spent on weapons and soldiers to education and health. Today we have a health system that makes us proud with all its possibilities for growth, but it really is a health system that allows us to have one of the highest life expectancies in the world,” he continued.
Rodríguez has asserted that the country has three main axes in terms of tourism – inclusion, innovation and social axis – and has indicated that it is distinguished by having 26 percent of the continental territory protected. Although the country has received more than 2.4 million tourists by air during 2023, which represents an increase of 16.7 percent compared to the previous year, its main challenge now is to “see more clearly how many international tourists it can receive” in a sustainable way.
The minister clarified, “It will be a conversation that I will have to have at some point with the private sector because obviously here we always talk about a greater number of people that we want in the country and we are clear that that cannot be like that. We are clear that we have a limit. Yes we do not see that limit, we begin to damage our main resource to attract tourists,” he warned.
On this matter, he regretted that very high numbers of tourist arrivals to the country significantly increase the costs of services such as health and energy. “Imagine a country that has 4 million inhabitants, which probably has health, water, electricity and connectivity services calculated for 4 million people. When it has 20 million visitors, what does it have to invest to provide that service? It involves very high investments,” he stated before stating that “all of this must be measured.”
Security and migration
In relation to the security situation in the country, Rodríguez has defended that the perception in this regard continues to be “very high” on the part of of tourists who visit Costa Rica and has blamed the increase in crime on drug trafficking, although he has warned that “this does not mean that it cannot affect the future.”
“The measurements we make show that 90 percent of Tourists consider that they felt very safe in Costa Rica, that nothing happened to them. The perception of security continues to be very high and that obviously indicates that it has not penetrated international markets, which are potential clients,” he clarified, although he admitted that recently there has been an “increase in crime.”
At the same time, he explained that “the crime that we know or have known traditionally, such as robberies, assaults, passionate deaths, (…) has remained the same in the last 10 years.” “What has increased crime? Drug trafficking activity. And unfortunately drug trafficking activity always has an advantage over governments, and that is that they always have more economic resources to buy better weapons,” he added.
To address this problem, he continued, the Government has proposed taking measures to “prevent boys from killing each other” and, at the same time, “prevent” the law from being broken. “Until now, in some cases, the law allows people who break the law to go out with an ankle bracelet and commit crimes again.”, he pointed out, while indicating that 907 murders were recorded throughout 2023, of which the vast majority occurred in the context of clashes between gangs.
Along these lines, the minister has stated that migration affects the security of the country, but “in other types of activities,” but he highlighted that many of the migrants “are good, productive people, who come to do jobs that Costa Ricans do not do.”
“The migration that comes to us from the south is the that is affecting us the most, and that migration has to do with Ecuadorians, Haitians and Africans, who enter through the south of the continent and begin to walk towards the United States. It is a real problem for us because we have to manage that they cross from border to border without having to stay in Costa Rica and the main cities,” he clarified before detailing that the Government is developing an “expensive” program in this regard.