QCOSTARICA – OPINION – Dear Minister of Tourism, Gustavo Segura Sancho, as you have mentioned on various occasions, tourism is the engine that drives Costa Rica’s economy.
Following your momination to the post on July 8, 2020, you referred to the three key axis in reactivating tourism in Costa Rica: the opening of international flights gradually and safely; the implementation of tools to alleviate the financial problems of companies in the sector and promote economic reactivation actions.
The reopening of the air borders to international flights on August 1 was the first step, a bold step when our other countries in the region maintained their air borders closed.
Allowing tourists from Europe, the UK and Canada was the baby step. Testing the waters so to speak, ensuring that the sanitary protocols developed worked properly, to keep the Coronavirus away from us.
The protocols included limiting those who can enter the country, require a negative COVID-19 PCR test, costly travel insurance by the State insurer, Instituto Nacional de Seguros (INS) and quarantine if needed.
Again, baby steps and a bold move in the region.
Though, as the days and weeks dragged on, you and your team made some changes to facilitate tourism, such as allowing tourists to enter with international insurance and PCR testing within 72 hours instead of 48.
It was a start.
On September 1, tourists from more destinations, including tourists from a select number of U.S. cities, were authorized. An important change, given that U.S. tourists are the main market for Costa Rica’s tourism sector.
The opening of the air borders continued, more countries and more US cities we authorized. Starting November 1, tourists from all over the United States are authorized. In addition, sea borders were opened.
On October 2, you stated that data from the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Policy (MIDEPLAN), calculated based on the Input-Output Matrix, allowing the entry of citizens and residents of all the states of the United States could generate the country US$1.5 billion dollars in foreign currency, that is equivalent to 2.5 points of Costa Rica’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and about 80,000 jobs for the year 2021.
All good and important steps to reactivating tourism, which in turn reactivates the country’s economy and get people back to work.
This is what I suggest:
- Do away with the travel insurance requirement. I can understand the need to cover the costs in the event a tourist does get infected with COVID-19. However, in your own words, of all the approximately 6,000 tourists have entered from August 1 to September 30, NONE, ZERO, ZILCH, NOT A SINGLE ONE have been reported as carriers or infected with COVID 19.
- Install rapid testing at the Juan Santamaria (SJO), in San Jose and Daniel Oduber (LIR) in, Liberia, airports at a reasonable cost to passengers who do not have a COVID-19 test.
- Strict quarantine measures for ALL passengers – tourists, residents and nationals – who test positive at the airport for COVID-19.
From the many of emails I have personally received from our readers and comments on social networks, including Facebook groups, point to numbers 1 and 2 above as the main stumbling block for travel to Costa Rica.
One, it adds a high cost to travel to the country. And practically eliminated last minute decisions to travel to Costa Rica.
In the region, as more countries reopen their air borders, only Costa Rica requires travel insurance. See COVID-19 Travel Regulations Map
Mr. Minister, I urge you, the members of your team, President Carlos Alvarado, Minister of Health, Dr. Daniel Salas, that changes are required. And now!
It’s not impossible.
In these times of pandemic, I believe, to fully reactive tourism and the economy in the country, it is time get our heads out of the proverbials and get serious, to enact measures that make sense from a traveller’s point of view, while maintaining reasonable sanitary measures in place and let’s get Costa Rica working again.
The Ministry of Public Security took a page from Panama in training an elite security force to combat crime in the country, maybe, just maybe you can do the same with reactavitating tourism?
Panama requires no travel insurance. Don’t have a C19 test? No problem, take one here for US$50.
Would that be so difficult for Costa Rica?