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
COSTA RICA – 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.
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).
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.
Starting 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.
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-September 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.
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 isthmus, Costa Rica is the only country, though dropping the need for the PCR test, requires tourists (and foreign residents of Costa Rica who do not have the Caja) to have medical travel insurance.
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Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.