Q COSTA RICA – In less than two decades Costa Rica will have tripled the number of tourist arrivals, closing 2016 with almost three million.
In 2004, the country set a record, receiving 1.5 million visitors, double the number of the previous decade.
According to the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) – the tourism board – up to last September the number of arrivals reached 2.25 million, a 12.46% increase over the first nine months of 2015.
Although the numbers for October, November and December are not in yet, if the trend of the previous nine months was continued, more than 2.9 million visitors will have arrived by air, land and sea.
According to a ‘pessimistic’ calculation by La Nacion, the number of tourist arrivals in the last quarter of 2016 would have to be at least 13.7%, a number that is somewhat difficult, though not unattainable.
To calculate the estimated arrivals of foreigners to the country, the ICT uses immigration records discarding the arrival of people with residency in the country, and those who travel to Costa Rica on a temporary work permit.
“Everything indicates that it was a really good year, with a higher than average growth,” Tourism Minister Mauricio Ventura said.
For the first nine months of 2016, the World Tourism Organization estimated an overall global increase of 4% in the number of international tourists compared to the previous year. In Costa Rica, the figure was 12.46%.
On the other hand, positive indicators pose challenges to the country.
A study published last April by the Instituto Centroamericano de Administración de Empresas (INCAE) – Central American Institute of Business Administration – underscored the seasonality and attraction of a better profile of visitors as part of the challenges for the country.
For example, while in 1999, the national average expenditure for each tourist was close to US$1,064, by 2013 that figure had increased by only one dollar.
In addition, Costa Rica maintains a tendency strongly linked to seasonality. In September 2016, the country received half of the tourists it registered in January, a challenge for the tourism industry.
On this, the hotel industry points out some ideas. Gustavo Araya, president of the Cámara de Hoteles, believes that the “rainy season” characterized by rainfall should be promoted as the “green season” with its high potential for ecological tourism.
Another challenge is for Costa Rica to promote conventions. According to Minister Ventura, convention goers have a higher purchasing power (spend more) and could spur visits during the “off-season”.
Is there a limit on tourism?
Although Costa Rica’s tourism has been on the rise, with an average per year of 6.3% since 2000, is there a ceiling for the number of tourist arrivals?
“At the moment it’s not an issue to consider right away,” Ventura told La Nacion. “In the future we will have to consider how far the country can reach in the number of visits it can receive without damaging the product (ecological tourism), but we still have a lot of growth potential,” he said.
Even more: in a decade Costa Rica could have more visitors per year than inhabitants. The Central American Population Centre estimates that by 2027, the country’s population will be 5.4 million compared to a possible 5.53 million tourist arrivals, if this pace of growth continues.
Source La Nacion