Fully immunized, Carson McCarns feels safe traveling to the beaches of Costa Rica. Like this 23-year-old American, hundreds of foreign tourists are revitalizing tourism, the economic engine of this country, affected by a rebound in COVID cases.
Despite being experiencing its most critical health moment since the Coronavirus pandemic broke out, Costa Rica maintains an outlook that allows it to be optimistic about its reactivation. Added to this is a stabilization in domestic consumption and exports.
After a complicated 2020, “when vaccination in the United States increased [in 2021], the arrival of tourists to Costa Rica increased,” said Tourism Minister Gustavo Segura.
The arrival of American tourists in February and March was equivalent to 30% of those who came in those months in 2019. In April, it was 60% and “in the first 15 days of May, more entries were finally reported, for growth of 11%, “the first positive figure for foreign tourism since the start of the pandemic, the official added.
Confidence of traveling
Carson McCarns, a native of Connecticut and a resident of Washington state, arrived with three friends on Friday, May 21, and will stay until June 6.”I was confident to come because I had already been vaccinated, in addition, I know that there are many things to do outdoors. I am not a scientist, but I believe that Costa Rica is safe because it allows such tourism, without crowds and not in closed places,” he said from Jacó beach, in the province of Puntarenas.
Christine Cooper, 22, from Miami, is another traveler who enjoys the Pacific Ocean.”I am already vaccinated, so I was not afraid of catching Coronavirus. I know many friends who have come to Costa Rica recently and had no problems and that gave me peace of mind,” said the young woman, who also plans to go to the volcanic area in La Fortuna de San Carlos, in the north of the country.
The government hopes that other visitors like them will keep coming to boost tourism.”Using statistics, I can say that there is a direct and evident relationship between the massive vaccination of the markets of origin and the processes of economic recovery,” said Minister Segura.
And he says that visitors have the “incentive” that “the number of tourists infected in Costa Rica is relatively low – less than half a percentage point is calculated, as measured by PCR exit tests”, while the largest sources of contagion are in the center of the country, where there is not much tourist demand.
Meanwhile, the country struggles to accelerate local tourism, again contracted by mobility restrictions to reduce the more than 2,200 daily cases of the last two weeks. Costa Rica is the sixth country in the world with the most infections per 100,000 inhabitants (526), according to AFP data.
Trade is not touched
Unlike the restrictions applied in 2020, this time trade has not been affected.Last year, the government disbursed 900,000 million colones (1.5 million dollars) in loans after the closure of 25% of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
“That increased the fiscal deficit by three percentage points. Now it no longer has those reserves, so the only possible measure is to keep trade going,” explained economist VíctorGarro.
Avoiding massive closings “allows people to bill and that is important to lower the 18.7% unemployment that was carried over from the previous year. It is already estimated that the year could end at 15 or 14%, with economic growth of 6%, which is positive, given the circumstances”, considered for his part the economist Daniel Suchar.
Costa Rica needs to stabilize its finances to give security to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which is waiting for the country to meet a series of requirements to turn over an already guaranteed loan of $ 1.75 billion, which must be paid within ten years .
As Vivian Alfaro, representative of the Costa Rican Chamber of Exporters (Cadexco) explained, “at the beginning of the covid there was an increase in the export of consumer products such as snacks and coffee that is still being maintained,” while the items that fell, as machinery or raw materials, “they have already been increasing, as a result of the fact that this time there were no closures, added to the learning already obtained.”The good prospects for recovery of trading partners such as the United States and some European countries also help.