QCOSTARICA – Despite the fact that, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, tourism was the source of the highest foreign exchange income and employment generator in the country, local governments have never had a strategic planning that provides support or protects the interest of micro and small tourism entrepreneurs.
If we talk about state institutions in general, apart from the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) – Costa Rican Tourism Board, only the Ministry of Public Security (MSP) has incorporated tourism needs and priorities into its strategic plans. Despite this effort, these institutions do not understand or consider how their decisions and actions impact on this activity.
“We have 84 cantons in the country and there are only two that have a slight mention of a tourism plan in their area of influence and it is precisely the municipalities that have the greatest impact on tourism, positively or negatively,” says Bary Roberts, representative of Turismo por Costa Rica (Tourism for Costa Rica).
The inclusion of measures, items or policies within government strategies is relevant since it is the Municipalities that determine patents, land uses, cleanup plans, maintenance of access roads, care of common areas, citizen security plans that include tourists, municipal police, and all other regulations governing communities.
In other words, local governments are primarily responsible for making their communities attractive for tourism.
“Let’s frame all this within the sad reality that because we are Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) they don’t understand us. However, we are 10% of the GDP, the largest employer group, the most strategic economic activity in the country, and the best friend of nature, culture, music, art, sports and gastronomy, and we are not being given the importance that tourism really means for the country,” explains Roberts.
The tourism group says that the tourism industry is not respected or supported in the necessary way.
During the pandemic, tourism was the most affected economic activity, ten times more than any other, and is the engine leading the economic recovery, however, the government does not provide financial support to the MSMEs that comprise the sector, causing a devastating permanent closure of more than 30% of these companies while another large percentage barely survives.