The majority of arrivals to Costa Rica by air, mainly by way of the Juan Santamaria (San Jose) airport. Photo Jorge Arce
The majority of arrivals to Costa Rica by air, mainly by way of the Juan Santamaria (San Jose) airport. Photo Jorge Arce

Visitors to Costa Rica, in the first three months of the year, left behind US$1.242 billion dollars, the highest amount recorded by the Banco Central (Central Bank).

This quarterly amount is similar to what Costa Rica received in tourism in the entire year in 2000 and 2001.

According to Tourism Minister, Mauricio Ventura,  the resources (money) are quite scattered throughout country because travelers usually visit several places during their stay.

Of the total foreign income from tourism entering between January and March 2016, 77% was through personal trips and the remaining 13% from business trips, according to a detailed breakdown published by

Among the kinds of travel considered “personal”, are “… vacations, which is the bulk of this category, but it also includes taking part in recreational and cultural activities, visiting family and friends, pilgrimages or study trips and travel for health reasons. Business trips, meanwhile, include transport crews, people in transit; government officials on official trips, and officials of international organizations on official business missions. ”

Minister Ventura, the president of the National Chamber of Tourism (Canatur) and Pablo Heriberto Abarca, say the increased visitation coincides with the increased number of flights to the country.

Based on information by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) – Tourism Board, in 2015, five new arilines began operating flights to and from  Costa Rica: Southwest Airlines, Volaris, Alaska Airlines, Thomson and British Airways.


In addition, six airlines opened new destinations: JetBlue, Spirit, Avianca, XTRAirways- Apple Vacations, WestJet and United Airlines and six others increased the frequency of flights: Condor, Interjet, JetBlue, Sun Country Airlines, Air Canada and United Airlines).

This year, three airlines announced new direct flights to the country: British Airways (in April launched a direct flight between London and San Jose; Air France will from November offer flights between Paris and San Jose; and the leading airline  in Switzerland, Edelweiss Holiday, will offer in 2017, flights between Zurich and San Jose.

According to Abarca, the increase in volume (of money left behind) is also attributed to the successful strategy focused on a segment that can afford to pay high costs.  However, he believes that the state should do more work to find ways on lowering them.

Roberto Artavia, specialist in competitiveness and current president of Viva Trust (business model and philanthropy), the country has the capacity to continue growing in certain types of tourism, but requires investment.

“Although there are some bottlenecks in the system, such as the capacity of the airport (Juan Santamaria) access to national parks or centres for large events (convention centres), among others, it is still possible to grow in volume of certain types of tourism, and value-added specialized travel (medical, health and welfare, training, etc.), with careful programming,” he said.

He added that the system should grow in various sectors and investments are underway such as in a convention centre, new gastronomic centres, such as the Barrio Escalante, and the expansion of transport and accommodation, through services like Uber and Airbnb.


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