Thursday 2 December 2021

Costa Rica sees ailing tourism sector stagnant in 2021 after COVID-19 blow

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QCOSTARICA  – Tourism to Costa Rica will likely stagnate this year at the sharply reduced levels of 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, weighing on the country’s economy, said the Minister of Tourism on Saturday.

Wildlife watching in Costa Rica. Photo from Lonely Planet

Gustavo Segura said Costa Rica will in 2021 probably receive about one-third of the more than 3.1 million tourists in 2019.

In 2020, 1,011,000 tourists arrived, official data shows, mostly in the first three months of the year, before Costa Rica closed its borders to tourists on March 18, 2020.

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The country partially opened its air borders on August 1 and by November 1 it permitted the entry of tourists by air and sea. The country continues with a policy of closed land borders to tourists until March 1, 2021.

In an interview, Segura said around 75,000 tourists came to Costa Rica in December, down from 327,000 a year earlier, underlining the challenge facing the popular tourist destination and the industry as a whole in Latin America.

“Though the figures are better than those of some competitor nations, many companies can’t get going again,” Segura told Reuters, noting that the extent of recovery would depend on how the pandemic developed and how vaccination efforts progressed.

According to the Central Bank, due to the loss of tourists, the Costa Rican hotel and restaurant trade shrank by 40% last year.

In 2019, tourism represented 8.5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 9% of formal jobs in the country of 5.1 million people.

Segura projected that in 2021, tourism will account for around 3.5% of GDP and that the industry will shed about half the employment it generated or about 100,000 jobs.

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The minister was hopeful that Costa Rica’s focus on nature tourism would reduce some of the attendant risk with people being outdoors. He also pointed to the fact the country’s health system had managed to avoid saturating its hospitals.

As of Tuesday, February 2, Costa Rica registered 195,009 infections and 2,641 deaths associated with Covid-19.

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