(QCOSTARICA) The Central Bank (Banco Central de Costa Rica – BCCR) says it registered “an important” increase of foreign currency coming into the country for the first quarter of the year.
According to the Central Bank data, in the first three months of this year, US$1.041 billion dollars was brought into the country by foreign travellers (with stays less than one year) acquiring goods and services.
Medical tourism is one of those areas showing an increase, the Central Bank report noting that about 50.000 people a year come to Costa Rica for medical treatment, spending an average of US$7.000 dollars.
Also showing an increase is business travel, specifically of commuters.
Tourism operators, however, say that this year is very similar to last year.
Gustavo Araya, president of the president of the Costa Rican Chamber of Hotels, says that the country is going through an important moment of decision-making and that people are standing by. Heriberto Pablo Abarca, President of the Chamber of Tourism (Canatur), for his part, attributes it to the strong investment of other countries in the region to promote themselves abroad.
Abarca cited examples like Colombia with a budget of US$150 million dollars, Guatemala US$60 million, El Salvador US$40.000, Panama US$80 million, while Costa Rica only US$14 million.
In addition, given the increased competition from Cuba, the country should be taking immediate action to position itself better.
The feeling of the entrepreneurs fits with the data of tourist arrivals published by the ICT (Tourism Institute), which indicates little growth, based on measurements taken at airports.
In the first quarter of 2015, this income was up 1% from the same quarter last year.
Other tourism indicators such as the monthly index of economic activity in hotels, and the level of employment in hotels and restaurants, also indicates tourism in 2015 is similar to last year.