Q COSTA RICA- No longer tourists come to Costa Rica only for the beaches, volcanoes or cloud forests, rather more foreigners come on business trips, to get medical treatments and study.
According to the most recent data by the Central Bank (Banco Central de Costa Rica), in the past 12 months, ending last September, the revenue in dollars directly related to ‘tourist activities’ reached US$3.624 billion dollars, 16% more than the same period for the previous year.
Of the total, vacationing in the country continues to be the single largest slice of the tourism revenue, 64%; the rest is divided among business trips, accounting for 15% of the total; health or medical tourism, 13%; and studying in the country, 8%.
Although the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) – tourism board – concentrates mainly on people choosing Costa Rica to come to vacation, the Promotora de Comercio Exterior (Procomer) focuses on attracting business, the recently formed Cámara Costarricense de la Salud (CCS) medical tourists and the Unidad de Rectores de las Universidades Privada (Unire) and State universities, students.
“Gateway to Trade” is Procomer’s program to promote trade in services between Costa Rica and Canada, according to Fabiola Pujol, head of the program, who explained that the program includes areas of information and communications technologies, as well as health, environmental and education.
“With respect to the education sector, Costa Rica is the number one destination for students from the United States. For 2015, 9,300 U.S. students chose Costa Rica above countries like Australia and Japan,” said Pujol.
Massimo Mnasi, director of the CCS, explained that medical tourism is not only Americans coming to have cosmetic surgery, but U.S. companies choosing Costa Rica for surgeries for their employees, including, Nicaragua’s national insurance company that purchases highly complex cancer and transplant surgeries in the country.
Data from patients treated in 2011, coming from the United States, Canada, Central America, the Caribbean, Europe and Asia chose Costa Rica because of its location, security, political stability and high professional training.
State universities have departments to attract foreign students, as well as send Costa Rica students abroad. At the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR) they receive about 300 foreign students a year, at the Universidad Nacional (UNA), about 200.
“This is because study in Costa Rica is cheaper than in other countries,” said Alban Bonilla, director of Unire, explaining that in Costa Rica schools there foreign students in careers such as medicine, physiotherapy and nursing, among others.