Sunday 24 September 2023

Costa Rica to close the year with 1.3 million tourist arrivals

International visitation is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels through 2024 or later.

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23 September 2023 - At The Banks - Source: BCCR

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QCOSTARICA – In a few days, as 2021 comes to a close, Costa Rica will have received at least 1.3 million international tourists, some 40% of the visitation compared to 2019.

International visitation is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels through 2024 or later.

For the coming months, there is hope that numbers could increase with the high season, which began in the last week of November, and will conclude at the beginning of March 2022; this is how the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT)  – Costa Rican Tourism Institute Board –  estimates it in its most recent review of possible scenarios.

“It is a very important percentage considering that the pandemic is not over yet and that world tourism is experiencing the most acute crisis in its history,” said Gustavo Alvarado, Minister of Tourism.

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“The route of the reactivation and recovery of the tourism sector is gradual, and most international experts foresee that the return to the levels of 2019 will occur within approximately two years,” added the Minister.

From January to November, a total of 1,130,377 tourist arrivals by air, land or sea were recorded. And on December 13, Costa Rica saw the return of the 29 airlines with flights to the country prior to the pandemic.

“One of the challenges for 2022 is to increase the number of seats and get even closer to the pre-pandemic levels (338,693 seats in December 2021 versus 392,583 seats in 2019),” added the Minister.

The United States continues to be the main source for tourists, a trend that has been maintained in recent months with a total of 732,343 international arrivals by air from January to November 2021; 63.8% in the same period of 2019.

The ICT must also pay special attention to the Canadian market after the reactivation in October of the flights of that country’s airlines.

The main source markets from Europe such as Germany, France, Spain, Holland, Switzerland and the United Kingdom also show an increase in visitation; 172,790 Europeans visited Costa Rica from January to November 2021, 45% from the same period in 2019.

Traveler profile

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To explain the possible changes in the behavior of those who visit Costa Rica for tourism after the reopening and the entry of non-residents, the ICT is conducting an investigation, the final results of which it says will be shared in due course.

Preliminarily, the results of the surveys conducted with tourists who left the country through the Daniel Oduber Airport in Liberia, the Guanacaste airport, between October and November 2021, show, among other things, a significant increase in the size of the travel group: traveling with family and friends represented 38.4% in 2019, while the figure in 2021was 42.7%.

Previously, this airport, which serves mainly the coastal beaches of the Pacific north and resorts in the northern zone, and was dominated by couples. This is consistent with the concept of “bubbles” or family or social groups of coexistence, which has been used in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“As can be seen from this example with very recent data, tourism is not always about multiple contacts and agglomerations, much less in the sustainable Costa Rican model,” explained Minister Alvarado, while reiterating the call to respect the sanitary measures known by all to protect human life and at the same time the gradual recovery of our economy.

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“From the ICT we will continue to make efforts to stay present in the minds of the best prospects or travelers with a high interest in visiting Costa Rica from the main markets, reinforcing the positioning of Costa Rica as a biosecure destination and a destination to reconnect with what is truly essential of life,” concluded the Minister.

Tourists arriving in Costa Rica, by air, land and sea do not require to present a negative COVID-19 test, nor quarantine upon arrival.

In the framework of the pandemic, the following requirements were also established:

  • Must complete the “Pase de Salud” (health form) within 72 hours prior to arrival, which will generate a QR code that must be presented upon arrival. One form must be completed per person, including minors.
  • Tourists who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and individuals aged 18 and younger (even if unvaccinated) can enter the country without a travel insurance policy. The last dose of the vaccine must have been applied at least 14 days prior to arrival in Costa Rica.

    The list of authorized vaccines include: AstraZeneca: Covishield, Vaxzervia, AXD1222, ChAdOx1, ChAdOx1_nCoV19 India; Janssen: COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen, Johnson & Johnson y Ad26.COV2.S; Moderna: Spikevax, mRNA-1273; Pfizer-BioNTech: Comirnaty, BNT162b2 y Tozinameran; Sinovac: COVID-19 Vaccine (vero cell), Coronavac ™; Sinopharm: SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine (vero cell), Inactivated (InCoV); Covaxin: BBV152, Bharat Biotech’s COVID-19 vaccine

  • Vaccinated tourists must attach their vaccination certificate (in English or Spanish) to the Health Pass. In the case of U.S. travelers, the “COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card” will be accepted.
  • Unvaccinated individuals aged 18 and older must purchase a travel policy with a duration equal to the period of stay in the country, with the exception of passengers in transit, whose minimum validity is five days that covers, at least, medical expenses generated by Covid-19 and lodging expenses due to quarantine.
  • Foreigners in the immigration category with a permanent or temporary residence, or a special category in the latter case (with the exception of the Student Subcategory), must demonstrate the assurance by the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS), which is in force and can be verified at the following link:
  • Tourists who are in transit through the country must purchase insurance with a minimum coverage of five days.
  • Costa Rican citizens do not require health insurance

For the latest entry requirements to Costa Rica, visit the official government website here:


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