In 2016, Costa Rica reported the arrival of almost three million international visitors, a figure never before achieved and, with the exception of the years of the global economic crisis, has not slowed its rise.
The number invited the celebration by the sector, but also sparked questions about how much more Costa Rica could grow in attracting foreign visitors.
Today, the authorities have a strong response: Our country has, as a tourist destination, a large margin of growth in the markets it serves.
The Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) has, for the first time, information from eleven markets that suggests that the number of visitors should not have to slow down, at least in the short term.
Beyond the United States and Canada, which have been historically monitored scenarios, data from the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, and Peru are available.
According to the study, in those nations the number of travelers who claim to be considering Costa Rica as a tourist destination exceeded five million in 2016; Only 5% has already materialized that desire.
“It is that margin between those who visited us and those who say they have a lot of interest in coming to where we see the opportunity to continue growing,” said Luis Madrigal, coordinator of marketing planning at the Institute.
The same authorities assure that the country has and will have the capacity to face that demand, although competitiveness issues come to the passage of the good airs.
Meanwhile, efforts to accelerate the dynamism of the sector continue and the attraction of airlines seems to be the most visible side of that bet.
According to the ICT report, the study nations were selected according to variables such as current connectivity and good behavior in international arrivals.
With 500 interviews per market, for a confidence level of 95% and a margin of error of no more than 5%, the institution managed to outline what they call the “best prospects” or “potential tourists”.
These are travelers who have already expressed their interest in visiting Costa Rica for leisure and pleasure, although they are not sure of the dates they would travel.
“The country has limited resources to promote internationally, knowing these profiles allows us to better target our actions and obtain better results,” said Tourism Minister Mauricio Ventura.
In general terms, regardless of the region, we speak of professional travelers with high incomes and levels of education, where the majority belongs to Generation Y (18-34 years) and X (35-50 years).
On the other hand, these are prospects that consider the climate of Costa Rica, its attractions and the tourist experience that is offered, as the factors that most influence the choice of the country in the list of destinations to visit.
A cap, does it exist?
In 2016, the United Kingdom became the largest emitter of European tourists to Costa Rica.
Visitors from that destination went from 47,499 in 2015 to a total of 71,392 in 2016; An increase of 50% and the highest increase reported by the markets selected by the ICT for its study, in that period.
The institution says that for this last year, there were 1,388,991 prospects who said they had been interested in visiting our country, of which only managed to capture 5%.
Although Costa Rica’s growth opportunity is clear, with only that market, what would happen if the number of interested people in all other destinations studied continues to grow and, therefore, the number of good prospects who finish their trip also follows this behavior, Are we able to meet that demand?
Pablo Heriberto Abarca, former president of the National Chamber of Tourism (Canatur), believes that the cap on the attraction and reception of travelers is not close. As an example says that to date the annual occupancy of hotels around 60%, so there is still room for maneuver.
“And in the case of European visitors these also come to the country outside the high season, which allows balancing the levels of visitation,” added Abarca.
For his part, Ventura is emphatic in that throwing a year as a limit or a number of travelers as the cap would be a mistake.
“The country’s infrastructure improves its airports and its hotels as well, as we have seen in recent years. We have a long way to go, “he said.
The challenge of adding and adding
However, maintaining that optimism will depend on how much the country is advancing in competitiveness issues, whether these roads or airports.
In the last year, the transport and infrastructure sector showed the greatest lag at the level of targets in the annual programs of the National Development Plan (PND).
Only 10 of the 32 goals set for 2016 were achieved and another four reached only partial execution levels.
To this, we add an old acquaintance, the stigma of being an expensive country compared to our competitors.