One of the most relevant sectors for the Costa Rican economy is declared in “Total Emergency and State of Calamity”, as it is the first time in the “zero” season that total income ceases.
The Board of Directors of the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) – Costa Rican Tourism Board – stated that all State institutions, Powers of the Republic, Autonomous and Semi-Autonomous Institutions, as well as Municipalities throughout the country, are required to collaborate in the broadest and most expeditious manner within the framework that the serious reality demands, in order to alleviate the situation of the Private Tourism Sector.
“(…) We are facing a zero season for the first time in the history of our country, which means the total ceasing of the income of the raw material, (tourists) for the sector, therefore, the total ceasing of financial income to face its obligations,” said the ICT in a statement.
In March 2020, the ICT reports that 127,201 people from abroad arrived in the country by air, a figure that compared to the 276,036 international arrivals in Marhc2019 represents a decrease of 54%, due to the covid-19 pandemic; a historical fall.
All entries (land, air and sea) of international arrivals in March were 162,994 (51.4% less than the same month the previous year).
“The impact of the global pandemic by covid-19 in the Costa Rican tourism sector is unmatched in the history of Costa Rica. This is indisputably corroborated by the official tourist figures for the month of March, of all international arrivals, ” said the ICT statement.
In February 2020 there had been an increase of 10.4% by air compared to the same month the previous year, and in January 2020, 5.2%.
“This crisis affects the entire tourism industry as a whole: hoteliers, transporters, transfer agencies, tour operators, guides, porters, chambers and associations, and others associated with tourism, such as artisan groups,” said María Amalia Revelo, Minister of Tourism.
At 11:59 pm on March 18, Costa Rica closes its borders to international tourists, allowing only the arrival of Costa Ricans and residents. The measure was initially up to April 12 and extended to April 30 in order to protect the public health.
According to data provided by the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería (DGME) – Costa Rica’s immigration service – and analyzed by the ICT, 89,275 tourists entered the Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) or San Jose airport, in the third month of the year, representing a decrease of 54.5 % to what was registered last year, in the same month.
The Daniel Oduber Quirós Airport (LIR), in Guanacaste, reported 37,826 international arrivals, a drop of 52.5% compared to March 2019.
In March, arrivals from the United States saw a 56.5% drop. This means that last month, 68,772 visitors from that country entered Costa Rica. Last year, in the same period, there were 158,062 arrivals of Americans.
Arrivals by air from Europe totaled 24,367; This figure represents a decrease of 44.2% compared to March 2019, with 43,662 arrivals.
The same downward trend was maintained in each of the main European markets: France, Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and the Netherlands (Holland), averaging a reduction in visits of more than 40%, as a result of the effects of the covid-19 pandemic in world tourism.
The accumulated figures for the first quarter of 2020 show the arrival of 665,829 tourists by air; a 14.2% decrease compared to the same previous period.
In its quarterly balance of payments report, the Central Bank estimated that in 2019 travelers spent a total of $3.976 billion dollars in the country.
The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) predicts that international tourist arrivals to destinations will decrease by 20-30% in 2020, compared to 2019 figures. However, UNWTO stresses that these numbers must be interpreted with caution in light of the extremely uncertain nature of the current crisis.
Minister Revelo stressed that the recovery of the health of the tourism sector will be slow and prolonged and that the boom to which we were accustomed will not return overnight.
“It will take months and years to recover the place we were occupying before this crisis and recover the visits of 3.1 million international arrivals that we had in 2019,” she added.
However, she highlighted the resilient spirit of the tourism sector and her confidence that with the reactivation strategies, the situation will be overcome.