QCOSTARICA – The Costa Rica Tourism Board (ICT) announced Wednesday that as of March, Chinese tourists from the cities of Beijing and Shanghai will not require a prior visa to enter the country.
Exploiting a new market, at the moment the most dynamic in the world, such as China is especially needed because the United States and Europe, Costa Rica’s two main sources of tourism to Costa Rica, are hit hard with the pandemic.
The announcement was made by the Minister of Tourism, Gustavo Segura, accompanied by President Carlos Alvarado, during a press conference presenting 20 measures to promote the reactivation of the Costa Rican tourism sector.
“The tourism sector is the most affected in our economy due to the pandemic and, recognizing this reality, we have adopted as a Government, with the leadership of ICT and other institutions, a group of measures to push the reactivation of tourist activity,” said President Carlos Alvarado, who highlighted the opening to Chinese tourism and the strengthening of the bilateral relationship with China, which is now 13 years old.
The measure, which will take effect on March 1, is part of a gradual scheme that includes requirements such as the acquisition of a tourism package with a duly registered Costa Rican tour operator company.
In 2019, there were 16,847 international arrivals of Chinese tourists through all routes of entry to the country.
According to the ICT, about 10% of China’s population or about 140 million people travel internationally. By 2027, the number of people with passports is expected to reach 300 million, which is equivalent to 20% of the Chinese population.
“Connectivity with China can be done via Europe from where there are direct flights to Costa Rica,” Segura highlighted.
For his part, President Alvarado pointed out that Chinese tourists have high purchasing power and are interested in the nature that Costa Rica offers.
The Tourism Minister stressed that the measures announced for the benefit of the industry include the participation of nine ministries and four de-centralized institutions.
“This sector fell 41% in 2020, while the general economy decreased 3.5% (of production),” Segura said.
Among other announced measures, to reactivate the industry, the voluntary cumulative day for public employees was announced, so that they can have a day off to vacation.
Segura explained the idea is for the public employee to accumulate additional hours of work to be able to take a day off.
“(Public) entities are asked to enable teleworking of public employees in tourist sites when possible,” stressed the Minister of Tourism.
In addition, the Executive Branch will send a bill to Congress to declare Father’s Day a holiday for Monday, June 21, only for this year.
It was also announced that the Ministry of Environment and Energy (Minae) invested ¢1.4 billion colones in infrastructure for national parks in the Central Pacific and the South Pacific.
Additionally, the Ministry of Health will lower the cost of the health permit for tourism companies to US$20. And tourist transport operators that have renewed their permits in 2021 will be granted a 2-year extension and the maximum number of years of antiquity of their units will be extended.
In the case of tourist companies with losses in 2020, the Treasury will facilitate the procedures so that they can suspend partial payments of income tax.
Among the financial measures, Alvarado and Segura advocated for banks to extend debt payment arrangements to tourism entrepreneurs throughout 2021.
“The guarantee fund that is in the Legislative Assembly is fundamental (for the recovery),” the President stressed. In addition, he urged legislators to process it as soon as possible.
The president of the National Chamber of Tourism (Canatur), Rubén Acón, supported the measures announced by the Government, as he said that everything is aimed at the recovery of the sector.
Tadeo Morales, president of the Arenal Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, agreed that the announcements are “a good sign”.
The tourism industry has been one of the most affected by the health measures to contain the covid-19 pandemic.
In 2020, the component of the monthly index of economic activity (IMAE) detailed that the accommodation and food services sector fell 49.6% in December 2020, compared to the same month in 2019.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, tourism in Costa Rica generated 225,000 direct and 83,000 indirect jobs.