The Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT), in a framework of continuous improvement of its statistics, will design a new indicator to measure the arrival of tourists to the country.

For this, the ICT signed a cooperation agreement with the General Directorate of Immigration and Foreign Nationals that will allow it to receive a monthly level of disaggregation of the international migratory movements of people in Costa Rica. From 1958 to date, the ICT has estimated the tourist activity through an indicator of “number of international arrivals per port of entry”.

This monthly, semi-annual and annual calculation is based on an information table that provides Migration every month and that has historically been added by country with 3 reference variables: month of income, nationality, and immigration control post (air, land and maritime).

Migration has begun to share with the ICT new variables on the condition that the person holds when entering Costa Rica. The new information now opens the possibility of calculating or estimating indicators that have not been available for the country.

The Minister of Tourism, María Amalia Revelo, who is a statistician by profession, considered that this is an opportunity for methodological progress to build a new, robust and consistent indicator with the international quality standards of the information produced.

Revelo stressed that “given the volume of information that the Directorate of Migration exchanges with the ICT after the signing of the cooperation agreement, we face the responsibility of improving the quality of tourism statistics while taking advantage of the facilities offered by the changes technologies for the access and processing of big data”.

The change, at the same time, meets the request of different members of the private tourism sector, who have advocated to fine-tune the periodic monitoring of tourist activity in our destination.

Tourists walking along a peaceful beach

An international application for advice

In order to advise the working team of the Information Management Unit of ICT, composed of three professionals in statistics and tourism, the Minister of Tourism requested the previous month the technical collaboration of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to jointly propose concrete proposals to establish the type and form of the new indicators that could be used to measure tourism activity on the demand side.

“We have no doubt that the analysis of this situation will become an interesting case study that can be shared with other countries, contributing to increasing UNWTO efforts to continuously improve all aspects related to tourism measurements”, said the head of the ICT Information Administration Unit, Roxana Arguedas.

In 2018, under the indicator “number of international arrivals per port of entry” (current calculation in the ICT to monitor the tourist activity based on figures provided by the DGME), Costa Rica accounted for 3,016,667 arrivals on all routes, an increase of 1.9% in relation to the year 2017.

By air, the most important for the country and based on which the promotion of the destination abroad is planned, there were 2,314,888 arrivals through the two international airports, Juan Santamaría, and Daniel Oduber Quirós in Liberia, a growth of 5.9% (1,760,695 arrivals) and 5.1% (552,589 arrivals) respectively. By land and river, there is a decrease of 8.9% (equivalent to 67,431 arrivals), mainly attributable to the political conflict in the neighboring country of Nicaragua.

The construction of the new indicator entails updating methodological, technical and operational processes. The change in the basis of calculation when introducing new reference variables implies that the resulting measurement will not be comparable with the historical series of the ICT of the last 50 years.