Adventure tourism and ecotourism continue to dominate as the country’s main income. However, medical tourism has taken center stage, mainly after the pandemic.
Costa Rica is one of the first five countries with the highest number of visits from Americans in search of medical treatment. Data from the Central Bank of Costa Rica reveals that in 2019, medical tourism generated USD$465 million.
Regarding the most sought-after services, dental treatments are found with 42%, other surgeries in areas such as orthopedics, bariatric, cardiovascular, ophthalmology, oncology with 22%, preventive medicine (16%), plastic and aesthetic surgery (10%) and other medical expenses for pharmacy, rehabilitation, audiology, dermatology, physiotherapy with 10%.
The figure of income generated by medical tourism is USD $56 million during the first two quarters of the year. At this time, trips for health reasons represent 13.4% of all visits to the country, according to data from the Tourism Satellite Account of the Central Bank of Costa Rica (BCCR).
According to data from the Costa Rican Chamber of Health, more than 80% of visitors come from the United States and 10% from Canada. However, they are also increasingly reaching tourists from Central American and Caribbean countries.
Massimo Manzi, executive director of the Costa Rican Chamber of Health, stated that a greater recovery is expected in the course of 2023:
“Attracting international patients is an economic activity that since the 1970s has been generating significant foreign exchange earnings for the country. These revenues benefit a wide value chain that not only includes hospitals and clinics, but also airlines, hotels, restaurants, transportation companies, tours, wellness activities, and handicrafts,” said Manzi.
However, the country could increase profits from medical tourism through public policies that support the initiatives already carried out by the health sector. “On this subject, we very favorably view the legislative initiative that is processed under file 21,140 “Law for the Promotion and Development of Health Tourism Services in Costa Rica” which, thanks to the formation of an Inter-institutional Commission, could contribute precisely in the generation of this public policy that is so necessary for this economic activity to develop at levels closer to its potential”, Manzi commented.
Developing coordinated initiatives with the Health, Tourism, Foreign Trade and Economy authorities would allow the country to compete on equal terms with nations that for many years have made health tourism one of the main pillars of tourism development policy.