COSTA RICA NEWS – President Luis Guillermo Solis and the Minister of Environment and Energy (MINAE), Edgar Gutierrez, put the brakes on the collection of the 13% sales tax on admission to the country’s national parks.
The decision amends Decree 38295 by the MINAE signed by the previous administration, which taxed “recreational” visits to national parks.
The decision to suspend the tax follows lobbying by the tourism sector that says it has suffered a decline in international and national visitors in the very competitive Central American tourism market that is price sensitive.
Patricia Madrigal, deputy minister of the Environment explained that the change qualifies visits to national parks as part of national heritage and an educational experience, especially for foreigners and as such the tax does not apply.
However, the country continues to set separate rates for locals and foreigners.
Foreigners (tourists and non-residents living in Costa Rica) pay on average twice or more the rate charged to locals (nationals and foreigners with residency in Costa Rica).
Visitors to the world-famous Cocos Island National Park in the Pacific will pay the highest fees, at $25 for local tourists and $50 for foreigners.
In May of this year, the Sistema Nacional de Áreas de Conservación (Sinac) raised entrance fees at all parks, to raise additional funds for conservation programs.
For nationals, the rate varies from ¢500 colones to walk the trails of the Tortuguero to ¢4.000 to reach the summit of the Chirripó. The entrance fee for the majority of the parks is around ¢1.000 colones.
For tourists and foreigners living in Costa Rica without residency, the the increase is between US$2 and US$10, for example, the cost at the Chirripó is US$18 (compared to US$8 for nationals).
The only exception to the dual pricing is the Parque Nacional Isla del Coco, where All visitors pay a US$50 entrance fee.
For the drop in the entrance fee due to the suspension of the tax collection, the amendment to the decree must be published in the official government newsletter, La Gaceta. No word from the government when that will be.