Saturday 4 February 2023

Without vaccine, it would take up to 4 years for the Costa Rica to recover pre-pandemic tourism figures

With a vaccine, recovery would be in less than 2 years; Costa Rica reopens borders to tourists from all over the world as of November 1

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QCOSTARICA – Without a vaccine for the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, it would take Costa Rica between 3 and 4 years to recover the tourist arrival rates reported prior to the health emergency.

Arrivals hall at the Juan Santamaria international airport (SJO) in San Jose, Costa Rica

That is the estimate made by the Minister of Tourism, Gustavo Segura, who is clear that the recovery will be slow and the possibilities of greater openness for the sector will depend a lot on citizen commitment to contain an accelerated spread of the virus.

In 2018 and 2019, all border posts in Costa Rica moved an average of 6 million tourists each year (between arrivals and departures).

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For example, in 2019 alone, more than 2.4 million tourists entered the country by air. One of the highest figures in recent years.

Tourism indicators fell dramatically due to the pandemic and, despite the fact that the country gradually reopened different activities, the administration of Carlos Alvarado is cautious with calculations of an eventual recovery.

“This depends on factors mainly outside of Costa Rica. If the world manages to find a vaccine and control the pandemic at the global level as soon as possible, without a doubt the recovery process to the levels prior to the pandemic will be less, with care and not, it will be less than 2 years. As long as the world lives in a pandemic and there is a significant degree of fear of travel, it will take us between 3 and 4 years to reach the (pre-pandemic) numbers,” said Segura.

Gustavo Segura, Ministry of Tourism

Stating on August 1, the country gradually opened the air borders, first to Europeans and Canadians, then adding other countries, including a limited number of U.S. States, slowly opening to more and more. And as of today, November 1, the opening will be total for tourists from all over the planet.

On October 26, Costa Rica took the bold step of dropping the requirement of a negative PCR test, requiring tourists from wherever they may come from only to complete the digital epidemiological (Health Pass) and have medical insurance, purchased locally or abroad.

“It is important that in Costa Rica we make every effort to adopt the protocols and communicate to the world, and promote the country, as a safe and non-crowded destination, where the enjoyment of tourism is fundamentally outdoors,” said Segura.

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According to data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), as of September, the number of reported international flights fell by 51% compared to the same period in 2019 (1.44 million flights in 2020).

Figures from the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) – Costa Rican tourism board – show that between January and September, 672,901 passengers had entered by air, the bulk between January 1 and March 19, when Costa Rica closed its air borders to foreigners.

The January-Septmeber numbers represent a decrease of 63.4% compared to that reported for the same period in 2019.

In the coming weeks, an increase in flights and air connections from Europe and North America is expected. Airlines will have 300,000 seats available to travel to Costa Rica in December.

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From emails received by the Q and comments on social networks, the stumbling block for many on deciding to visit Costa Rica continues to be the medical travel insurance, which can be up to US$10 or more per day, per person of permanence in the country.

In the isthmums, Costa Rica is the only country, though dropping the need for the PCR test, requiries tourists (and foreigner residents of Costa Rica who do not have the Caja) to have medical travel insurance.

  • Guatemala: Incoming passengers must have a medical certificate with a negative Coronavirus (COVID-19) PCR or antigen test result issued at most 72 hours before departure. This not does apply to passengers younger than 10
  • El Salvador: Incoming passengers must have a printed medical certificate with a negative Coronavirus (COVID-19) PCR test result. The test result must have been issued at most 72 hours before departure from the first embarkation point. This not does apply to passengers younger than 2; passengers taveling with a diplomatic passport; or passengers in transit. The last very important as El Salvador is a hub for Avianca with connections to North America, South America and Europe
  • Honduras: Incoming passengers must have a medical certificate with a negative Coronavirus (COVID-19) PCR or Rapid test result issued at most 72 hours before arrival
  • Nicaragua: Incoming passengers must present to the airline and upon arrival a medical certificate for a negative Coroanvirus (COVID-1) test result; must be taken at most 72 hours prior to arrival
  • Panama: Incoming passengers without a medical certificate with a negavtive Coronavirsu (COVID-19) PCR or antigen test result issued at more 48 hours before arrival are subject to Coronavirus (COVID-19) test at the own expense (currently US$50 done at the airport on arrival)
  • Belize: Incoming passengers without a negative Coronavirus (COVID-19) PCR test result issued at most 72 hours before departure are subject to Coronavirus (COVID-19) PCR test upon arrival. Passengers traveling as tourists must have a reservation confirmation of an approved hotel. See



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