Costa Rica is one of the countries that avoids restrictions for international travelers. The other countries are Albania, in Europe, and the Dominican Republic, in the Caribbean. This is indicated in a recent announcement by the World Tourism Organization, which added that, as of June 1st, 29% of world destinations registered a complete closure to international tourism. Tourism was the niche of the economy hardest hit by the Pandemic in the country. It is also expected to be the slowest to recover. Most estimates go as far as 2024 to achieve this.
Meanwhile, in Costa Rica the tourism sector insists on avoiding the implementation of PCR tests on travelers. The reiteration arises after the College of Physicians advised to resume the practice in the face of the increase in worldwide cases of the Delta variant, of Covid-19. However, both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Tourism support the position of the national tourism industry. This requirement was eliminated since last October 26th.
According to the United Nations, the cost of the Pandemic could represent a loss of $ 4 trillion (millions of millions) for international tourism, by the end of 2021. The cost during 2020 was estimated at $ 2.4 trillion and this year others could be added. $ 1.7 trillion.
In Costa Rica, the National Chamber of Tourism (Canatur) estimated the sector’s losses at about $ 3,000 million. For its part, Central Bank figures suggest that activity in hotels and restaurants contracted up to ten times more than in other areas of the economy.
For this year, the arrival of tourists is not lifting at the desired rate. In fact, this past week the Costa Rican Tourism Institute presented the most recent results and, at the current rate, the country would be barely exceeding the figure of one million visitors.
A recent report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) indicated that, for 2024, the estimates of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at the world level would be on average 4% lower than the pre-pandemic calculations.
According to the latest Report on Travel Restrictions from the official organ of the United Nations, in tourism, one of three destinations (34%) is partially closed. In 36% of all destinations, a negative test for Covid-19 is being requested, (as suggested by the Tico College of Physicians).
However, the global entity points out that this is not necessarily an upward global trend. “The evidence confirms that, more and more, tourist destinations are adopting less severe restrictions and are applying models based on evidence and risk,” they said.
“The number of infected tourists in Costa Rica is relatively low – less than half a percentage point is calculated, measured through PCR exit tests,” Minister Gustavo Araya recently declared. This position was supported by the President of Canatur, Rubén Acón, who pointed out that the focus should be on accelerating the national vaccination campaign.
“The virus is not prevented by requesting PCR tests, it is prevented with individual commitment and accelerating the immunization process of the population, imposing the mandatory nature of the PCR test implies a direct impact on tourism,” he said.
This is precisely another of the conclusions made by the World Tourism Organization, since the study found that there is a “direct link between the increase in the vaccinated population and the relaxation of measures”. For its part, the Costa Rican Chamber of Hotels (CCH), assured that resuming the practice would affect the “slight” recovery that tourism activity is experiencing in the national territory.
“Restoring this requirement, coupled with travel insurance, makes us less competitive and are measures that discourage travel,” said its leader, Javier Pacheco. At the same time, he supported Canatur’s call to speed up the immunization process.
Although the country still does not register cases of the Delta variant, scientists from the Costa Rican Institute for Research and Teaching in Nutrition and Health (Inciensa) have redoubled efforts to identify its presence.
The biggest fear is that this variant could trigger the number of Covid-19 cases in the country. This is due to the high level of contagion it causes. For this reason, the College of Physicians reiterated its call to establish PCR tests for travelers. This was stated by the President of the entity, Dr. Mauricio Guardia.
“The College does consider it appropriate to assess the implementation of PCR tests, since we must apply each preventive measure that allows us to close spaces for the reproduction of the virus and does not have an impact on eventual increases in cases of contagion and even on the saturation of medical services. Especially at times when the country may be on the verge of having cases of the new Delta variant,” Guardia said.
During the first six months of this year, the country has registered 497,449 international arrivals. Of these, 362,435 correspond to US citizens, which is equivalent to 72.8%. Meanwhile, only 14% correspond to inhabitants of the Old Continent, according to ICT figures.