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Costa Rica shows a gradual rebound in tourist visitation at the end of 2020

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In the month of December, 71,000 tourists were counted by air, almost doubling the record of November 2020. The 2020 period recorded just over 1 million international arrivals by all routes. The 2021 period marks a path of challenges such as strengthening the country's position as a biosecure destination in which visitors can reconnect with what is essential.

SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA – International arrivals in 2020 by all routes reached the accumulated figure of 1,011,912, which represents almost a third of the record for 2019 when they exceeded 3 million.

With the return of 20 airlines from Costa Rica’s main tourism markets and the announcement of new routes at the end of the period, December registered the entry of 71,000 tourists by air, almost doubling the visitation registered in November, during which 36,044 were reported, according to data from the General Directorate of Migration and Foreigners analyzed by the Costa Rican Tourism Institute. Tourism Minister Gustavo Segura Sancho recalled that 2020 was an unprecedented year. "The uncertainty and restrictions derived from the pandemic caused world tourism to collapse and the country received a third of the tourists who normally walk in Costa Rica," said the Minister.

Despite this, Segura highlighted the country’s achievement of closing 2020 with a third of what was achieved in 2019. Costa Rica had its air and maritime border open for only seven months of the year, five of them in the pandemic season and only 4.5 months to all countries of the world.

“Each tourist who visits Costa Rica contributes to recovering the tourism sector, a process that, as we have repeatedly pointed out, will be gradual. Tourist visitation also activates a series of productive chains of the culture, agriculture, fishing, and commerce sectors, among others,” added the Minister. The Minister noted that there was a greater recovery of tourism from the United States than from Europe, where travel has diminished much more, the restrictions imposed in their countries and the distance that separates Costa Rica from Europe, among other reasons.

Precisely and, according to the data for December, a visitation by air of 52,027 tourists from North America was reported, specifically from the United States (45,641) and Canada (4,450), which historically have been the main tourism markets.

Both countries accumulated in the 2020 period a total of 547,466 tourists who entered the Juan Santamaria and Daniel Oduber Quiros international airports.

According to data from the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Policy (MIDEPLAN), calculated based on the Input-Output Matrix, the income of citizens and residents of the United States of America (without differentiation by state), means the possibility of generating US $1,500 million in foreign currency, recover 80 thousand jobs and 2.5 points of GDP by 2021.

For its part from the European region, between January and December, 149,023 tourists from the five main tourist-sending countries visited Costa Rica the previous year amid the new global normality: France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands (Holland).

"World tourism is still under the effects of the pandemic, which make it difficult to make future projections or estimates based on the information available. However, we are constantly working on the generation of new models to establish scenarios that allow us to analyze different possibilities for the growth of tourism in the future. With the arrival of the vaccine, the increase in efforts to contain the virus, and the opening and reactivation of tourist activity, we hope that tourism will show a rebound for the second half of 2021," said Rodolfo Lizano, Director of ICT Planning and Development.

2021 Challenges
In a discussion with representatives of the press on Friday, January 8, the Tourism Minister highlighted the challenges that the Costa Rican tourism sector will face in 2021. Segura pointed to the challenge of regaining the confidence of international tourists who still do not feel confident in traveling by plane or leaving their homes. This challenge is conditioned by elements beyond our control such as new waves of SARS-CoV-2 in the markets of origin, virus mutations, restrictions in source markets (for example Europe), among others. Costa Rica must do everything in its power to take advantage of what it can control, such as maintaining a safe opening.

In addition, the Minister of Tourism added the challenge of maintaining Costa Rica's brand presence in the main markets (USA, Canada, Mexico, UK, Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands) with a budget very reduced for 2021, and at the same time highlighted the strengths, such as being a destination that can be visited at any time of the year, with multiple outdoor activities, sustainable and safe.

A third challenge is to bring economic relief to tourism companies so that as many as possible can survive the pandemic. In this case, in a coordinated manner with the Ministry of the Presidency, a series of bills proposed by deputies from different political parties and by the Government were summoned to extraordinary sessions. Its approval will be key to the reactivation of the economy as a whole and the tourism sector in particular.

The Tourism Minister also said that a different look from commercial banks towards the private tourism sector is desirable to sustain the rural and coastal economies of the country, making companies operate at a point of equilibrium. Segura added that together, public and private representatives will go to other State entities to analyze and identify measures that can alleviate the financial situation of a sector that has been the engine of the national economy.

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