The arrival of tourists to Costa Rica grew only by 1.3% in the first eight months of the year with respect to the same period in 2016, especially affected by an overall fall of 3.4% in the arrival of U.S. tourists.

Wildlife watching in Costa Rica. Photo from Lonely Planet

The deceleration has the private sector concerned, particularly because in the first eight months of 2016 there was an increase of 12.7% over the same period in 2015 and in particular an increase of 19% in the case of Americans.

The Minister of Tourism, Mauricio Ventura, however, says the problem is “short-term or a temporary” behavior of the U.S. market. See figures regarding tourism in the country compiled by the ICT.

Ventura pointed out a that traditionally there is a downward trend with a change of government in the United States and, especially when there is a change of party in power.

However, in separate conclusion, Isabel Vargas, president of Canatur, and Johnny Riba, president of the Costa Hotels Association, agreed that there is a significant drop in travel to Costa Rica from the U.S.

They affirm that the (U.S.) airlines have reduced the number of seats and size of aircraft for flights to the country.

According to Riba, there is a strong interest from Americans visiting Mexico following the signing an open skies agreement between Mexico and the U.S., resulting in a 12% increase of American visitors to Mexico in the first half of this year compared to 2016. In August 2016, the United States and Mexico opened their aviation markets to their carriers.

The tourism minister, however, considers the adjustment by airlines as “normal”, explaining the biggest drop is in Guanacaste, where arrivals at the Daniel Oduber international airport in Liberia, fell by 7.8% when comparing the first eight months of this year with last year.

Recognizing there is some circumstantial component due to the change of government in the U.S., Riba considers that attention must be paid to other factors that are also having an impact.

“Logically there is a concern, the high season is coming and the numbers have maintained, but there is no short-term growth, we can stop the fall but we do not see an increase,” warned Riba.


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