The Market Director of the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT), Carolina Trejos, points out that Costa Rica has tourism that is respectful of the environment and from the ICT “they want it to continue being that way”.Trejos is optimistic about 2023 due to the good numbers at the beginning of the year, although she regrets that the airlines have not recovered all of their service offers.
What balance do you make of tourism in 2022? Has the 2019 data been recovered?
As for tourists who come by air, we are in very close figures, only 10% below 2019. When we analyze the figures in a global calculation, including travelers who enter by land or cruise ships, we still do not reach the levels of 2019.
However, the prospects are very positive, especially since the majority of international tourism enters Costa Rica through the airports. Having this part of the tourists recovered is a great relief for us. “In the Papagayo peninsula, we will have four new high-end hotels in the next 2 years”.
How has the Spanish market worked?
In the pre-pandemic years, Spain was the first or second source market for tourists from Europe. After the pandemic, there have been other markets that have recovered better than Spain, such as Germany and the United Kingdom. We have good air connections with the country. In this sense, Iberia has always been a great ally since they have a special and constant product for Costa Rica.
In 2021, Iberojet began offering flights to the country, which has helped us a lot to recover Spanish tourism. However, we still have reduced capacity compared to the demand that exists. When we talk to agents and wholesalers, they tell us that what they need are more seats and flights to Costa Rica. The recovery of the airlines after the pandemic is being somewhat slow, which represents a significant bottleneck and limits our capacity.
Are you in talks with other companies to expand air connectivity to Costa Rica?
It is one of the fundamental objectives as tourism promoters. In Spain we have managed to attract Iberojet, which is very interesting because it allows us to reach a different market segment than the one we originally had. We are more open to other segments.
In Germany we have operations with Lufthansa; in Switzerland with Edelweiss Air, in the Netherlands and France with Air France-KLM; in the United Kingdom, British Airways has a seasonal flight and we are working to operate it all year round.
What objectives have been set for this 2023 in the sector?
In 2023, it is imperative for us to reach the figures of 2019 in order to start exploring other markets and to have better tools to attract more airlines to Costa Rica. For us, the high season begins on November 15 and extends until Easter and it is being very positive. Tourism entrepreneurs anticipate that this high season will exceed the figures for 2019.
This offers us a very positive forecast of how the year can be. If we have an excellent high season at the beginning of the year, together with the Spanish summer tourist peaks, we will have a very positive year. We also want to quickly grow and capture, in addition to more Spanish tourists, other visitors from Portugal or Scandinavia. “Costa Rica has tourism that is respectful of the environment and we want to keep it that way”.
How are you going to work to attract new and more Spanish visitors?
Historically, Spain has been a primary market for Costa Rica. There is knowledge and a very positive perspective of the country. This is very beneficial for us and helps make a sale to the agencies. Topics such as corporate social responsibility, ecotourism, gastronomy and immersive cultural trips are very popular with Spanish travelers. We have a product that has been developed precisely because the Spanish have requested it and has subsequently been very successful in all European markets.
For example, the Spanish really like to have more direct contact with the local community. For this reason, our tour operators try to introduce the authenticity of the country into their proposal and take tourists to places that may not be so touristy but allow them to have a much more immersive experience.
What will be the big news in the destination this year?
The pandemic allowed those ‘follies’ that Costa Rica is promoting, such as non-mass, eco-responsible tourism, etc., to become very important throughout the world. We are focused on these issues that Costa Rica carries in its DNA. We have experience and we can offer a product that meets the demands of tourists.
Undoubtedly, Costa Rica has tourism that is respectful of the environment and we want to keep it that way, so we are responsible for the achievements made so far and we want to continue offering new products around ecotourism.
We are a small country with a distribution of the tourist product throughout the territory, so we do not have a large crowd. We have many activities so that the stay of the tourists is longer. The tourist usually stays on average for about 13 days, which means that he has many things to do and that it is worth crossing the Atlantic to tour the country. “The segment of incentive trips and congresses has been the fastest reactivated in the country”.
And as for hotel infrastructures?
In the Papagayo peninsula (Guanacaste) we will have 4 new high-end hotels in the next 2 years: Six Senses Resort and Spa Papagayo, Hotel One Only Papagayo Bay Costa Rica Resort, Waldorf Astoria Cacique Guanacaste and Hotel Hampton By Hilton Guanacaste Airport. They are very strong investments from very important hotel chains. This area is specialized in a high-end tourist.
What is the situation of the MICE sector?
The segment of incentive trips and congresses has been the fastest reactivated in the country. But we have not recovered the business trip yet. The San José Convention Center, in the last semester, had 100% occupancy. We do a great job of communication for the MICE segment, which has led us to already have large important events booked for the next couple of years.
The value proposition that we make in the vacation area is exactly what executives are looking for: a place where large groups can be managed in different activities but in a space that is easy to control.