Tourism is one of the most important economic activities in Costa Rica, a country that before the pandemic received nearly three million people each year. COVID-19 slowed down the economy, a circumstance for which different alternatives are being sought to reactivate the flow of visitors arriving in the territory.
Laura Barrantes Requeno, president of the Costa Rican Association of Wellness Tourism, explains the main benefits of wellness tourism, a strategy that could position the region as an ecological and diverse nation.
What is the potential of Costa Rica in wellness tourism?
The development of the wellness segment in Costa Rica is experiencing significant growth at the national level, evidenced by the increase in the supply of services and products in this regard. Entrepreneurs have been committing themselves to the improvement of this offer, however, there are still many more opportunities for growth, which is why it is so important to continue promoting this growth in a professional way.
What are the main wellness tourism opportunities in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica, in addition to being considered the # 1 destination in ecotourism in recent years, has more than 50% of its territory under some category of forest cover, has been part of the Happy Index Planet for several years and has an infrastructure and tourist services high quality. All this allows you to present yourself to the world as the Destination of wellness in nature.
In addition to the above, its geographical location in the tropics, with access to two oceans, exuberant nature that allows activities such as forest therapy, yoga and meditation in the open air, to consume natural products. Another advantage is that the country has a small area of land that allows the visitor to move through many areas in a single trip.
The alliances between other organizations such as the National Chamber of Tourism, as the top organization of the sector, the National Chamber of Ecotourism, Arenal Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, have been strategic partners and key pieces for a country strategy.
A very important opportunity that Costa Rica has and has taken advantage of to position itself internationally, is participation in the Global Wellness Day, as a movement of which 170 countries are part. Costa Rica has been a member of this movement since 2015, and many actions are carried out in terms of promoting healthy lifestyles, one of the main needs in this 2021. This opportunity is to present itself to the world as the propitious destination to improve the physical and mental health reconnecting with nature in safe environments.
How does Costa Rica need to improve to attract more wellness tourists?
There is a public – private alliance between the Costa Rican Institute of Tourism and the Costa Rican Association of Wellness Tourism, which has allowed many actions to be carried out together, such as raising awareness of the business sector, training and joint promotion campaigns, where evidences the important quality offer that the country offers. However, there are also other private alliances that have also supported this development together in order to continue developing training and updating spaces.
These are actions that must be maintained over time. This, in addition to generating growth opportunities, also encourages the creation of new ventures that will offer more wellness products and services in a professional way. The tourism union must be better organized to be able to obtain a greater reach by generating a higher positive impact, through a greater professional offer.
What are the most important innovations in wellness tourism?
Tourist chains are one of the best strategies that a sector can develop, since it allows it to have a greater and better offer of services. As Wellness Tourism is such a dynamic segment, it allows activities to also permeate other sectors that are not directly tourist, which means that the economic benefits are greater.
It contributes to generating awareness regarding the local and national population, motivating them to have better habits that allow them to improve their health and therefore a better quality of life in contact with nature.
Costa Rica has two important differentiators worldwide. One is the great variety of activities that can be carried out in nature, especially forest therapy and the other is that we count as 1 of the 5 Blue Zones in the world and in extension Costa Rica is the largest, this area is characterized by having long-lived people (more than 90 years) with very good health due to their lifestyle habits.
What are the characteristics of wellness tourism in Costa Rica?
People seek to improve their health or maintain their healthy lifestyle while traveling, for this reason wellness trips focus mainly on activities that improve people’s health through tourism services.
Diversity is what enriches the offer, from outdoor activities to improve physical and mental health, such as forest therapy, meditation, aquatic therapies, and activities to improve breathing, hydrotherapy. Even lodging options adapted to rest at night in environments surrounded by nature, high quality food options, but consciously designed following nutritional recommendations.
Specialized travel agencies that promote the integration of the dimensions of well-being. And recently the incorporation of car rental companies that are offering services within their units such as music selections to relax the mind, aromas tailored to the interests of travelers, commitments to the environment to minimize the carbon footprint, among others.
The premise for Costa Rica is that these services are performed in harmony with nature. Therefore, the country strategy is to work in an organized and professional manner all the stakeholders to create more products and services with this emphasis and to be able to promote them nationally and internationally.
Likewise, take advantage of initiatives such as Global Wellness Day in order to give it a greater international presence, as an opportunity to show the world what Costa Rica is offering. Global Wellness Day is a non-profit movement that promotes wellness in all areas. And it is celebrated on the second Saturday of June.