(QCOSTARICA) OPINION – Today, August 1, is an important day. The day that Costa Rica’s international airports reopen to the much-needed tourists that is expected to revive the country’s economy.
It is also one day after Costa Rica’s president ordered to evaluate the use of international insurance in tourist entry requirements, asking the minister of Tourism and Minister of the Economy, to review so that the travel policies acquired abroad include hospitalization and accommodation coverage for COVID-19.
The president is responding to the warning of businessmen from the tourism sector and the Association of Airlines (ALA) that the high cost of insurance for travelers, in case of COVID-19, is a disincentive to the visitation of the country.
Alvarado Tweeted, Friday, July 31, that he ordered Gustavo Segura, Minister of Tourism (ICT), and Victoria Hernández, Minister of the Economy (MEIC), to verify that the travel policy does not become in a “bottleneck” in the reopening of the country’s air borders.
He instruido a la Ministra de Economía y el Ministro de Turismo revisar la oferta del seguro de viaje necesario para ingresar a CR a partir de mañana. Se revisará que los seguros internacionales que cubran la COVID-19 puedan ser considerados para cumplir con este requisito.
— Carlos Alvarado Quesada (@CarlosAlvQ) July 31, 2020
Although we can applaud this action, our question is, how do people with such an obvious lack of vision, logic, common sense, and business acumen get appointed to such positions of authority?
Our question is also, where was the president last week when the decisions were being made, and what went through his mind when he sat there, with his ministers explaining the insurance requirement?
This initial stupid decision has probably cost the tourism industry millions of tourists dollars in postponed or canceled trips to Costa Rica
Corrective action has to be taken quickly, to let the tourists – for now consisting of Canadians, Europeans and the British – that Costa Rica does not see tourists as stupid and easy marks to grab money from them.
The president’s actions have to be clear and decisive. The actions of the ICT and MEIC ministers do not need to be reviewed, they need to be replaced.
The president needs to own up the error made by the people he appointed. He needs to send the message that ineptitude will not cut it. Or he should step aside.
Tourism is Costa Rica’s main source of income and hard currency. It is responsible for almost 12% of direct and indirect employment and represents 8% of Costa Rica’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Tourist Insurance Requirements
The guidelines of the Protocol for the gradual operation of the Juan Santamaría International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic, establish that all visitors must have travel insurance approved by the General Superintendence of Insurance (Sugese).
The protocol dictates that the insurance must have a coverage of at least US$20,000 for medical expenses and at least US$4,000 for accommodation.
So far, the Instituto Nacional de Seguros (INS) – the State insurer – is the only local provider that has a policy with the conditions dictated by the protocol.
However, it isn’t cheap.
The INS premium that must be paid by every tourist wanting to enter Costa Rica is based on the length of stay and age, ranging from US$275 for minors (under 18) to more than US$965 for those over 70, for a period of two-week stay, the average stay of tourists in Costa Rica.
The requirement to purchase the INS insurance is not negotiable and independent of any other insurance the tourist purchases abroad.
“Insurance started from the theme that health is first. The valid concern of both the Ministry of Health and the Caja (Costa Rican Social Security) is that if, eventually, a tourist comes and is hospitalized due to COVID-19, who would pay those hospitalization costs?, knowing that it can be onerous,” said Alvarado.
The upfront cost for the INS insurance for say a family of four – two adults and two minor children – would add US$1,650 (assuming $550 for each adult and the known $275 for each minor), to the US$1,438 each tourist spends for an average 12.6 day stay in Costa Rica, according to an ICT survey.
On Monday, August 3, the first scheduled flight by the Spanish airline Iberia, is expected to arrive at the Juan Santamaria international airport (SJO), from Madrid Spain (MAD). Meanwhile, for Wednesday 5, the German airline Lufthansa makes its debut flight from Frankfurt (FRA).
Both airlines, typically turn around, bound for their original destination, the following day.
Let’s wait and see
President Alvarado pointed out that the first flight should be awaited to determine if the pilot test of the entrance requirements works or if there is a need to adjust and improve.
“This is something that has not been done yet; It would be the first experience… the bottleneck that could be the issue of insurance,” said Alvarado.
Really, is there any question that it would not be?
What’s your opinion?