Approximately 1.3 million tourists visit the country each year and as a result of the pandemic, the activity dropped to almost zero.
- A.M. Costa Rica illustrative photo -

Published Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Tourist visits fell from 1.3 million
to almost zero, says minister

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

It is urgent to provide financial relief to the country's tourism sector, in order to reactivate the economy, the Minister of Tourism, Gustavo Segura-Sancho said during his hearing before the deputies of the Permanent Tourism Commission.

According to Segura, approximately 1.3 million tourists visit the country each year and as a result of the pandemic, the activity dropped to almost zero.

In January and February, we were in a positive situation, in 2020 we were registering significant growth. When the pandemic was reported in March, we went to zero in the tourist economic activity. Then, in August there is a slight recovery, Segura said.

According to data provided by Segura, before the pandemic crisis, the tourism sector generated 8.2% of the Gross Domestic Product in addition to 11 thousand jobs, which represents 9% of the total of the country's workforce.

The minister estimates that it will take between three and four years to recover the tourism sector. Currently, the sector maintains very close coordination with the Ministry of Health and municipalities, during the reopening process and the consequent economic reactivation.

Among the strategies developed by the ministry for the reactivation of the tourism sector, is an advertising campaign entitled "The essentials of Life" where the country is shown with a solid democracy and ecotourism.

According to deputy Aida Montiel, Guanacaste Province has the highest unemployment level in the country. That region was greatly hit because tourist flights arriving at the Daniel Oduber airport located in Liberia Canton, were mainly from the United States. After several months with closed borders, international flights were once again allowed to fly into the country since Sept. 3.

The reopening of commercial flights will allow tourists to visit Guanacaste through flights with connections to other states, Segura said. That will allow the gradual economic reactivation of the province.

The government authorized only citizens of 20 states and one district of the U.S. to enter the country, as follows:

• Since Sept. 1, residents of Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Virginia and Washington District of Columbia can travel to Costa Rica.

• As of Sept. 15, residents of Oregon, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico, Michigan, Rhode Island, Colorado, Washington (State), Massachusetts and Pennsylvania can enter the country.

• Beginning Oct. 1, residents of California and now Ohio have the green light to travel into Costa Rica.

Rural tourism is also getting support from the government. The institute is developing a strategy through a platform to support 10,000 entrepreneurs, said Segura.

Last week, the institute announced an advertising campaign to be developed in Spain, as part of the strategies to attract tourists from Europe.

At the reopening of the opera season of the Real Theater of Madrid in Spain, a tribute was made to the National Theater of Costa Rica for its’ 130th anniversary of the placing of the first stone in constructing the theater.

During the event, a video advertisement about Costa Rica was projected, as part of the campaign to attract Spanish tourists.

According to the institute, the advertisements to promote the country as a tourist destination will continue screening at the Madrid theater until March 2021.

Despite the decrease in people allowed to enter the theater, due to the health guidelines of social distancing, the institute projects that the campaign could be seen by an estimated audience of 200,000 spectators during the opera season.

"This creative project allows us to maintain the connection with potential Spanish tourists with higher income that allows them the possibility of traveling to our country shortly," Ireth Rodríguez, head of advertising at the institute said.

"Discover our natural culture" is the motto used in the ads to show common cultural aspects of both countries, such as the National Theater of Costa Rica and the Royal Theater of Madrid.

The institute chose Rafael Amargo, flamenco and contemporary dancer, the pianist Manu Guie and the lyrical singer Sylvia Schwartz as ambassadors of Costa Rican culture. They appear in the ads discussing their admiration for Costa Rican nature and biodiversity.

In addition to the ads, a trip to Costa Rica will be raffled for those who complete a trivia posted on the website for the institute. The participants of the raffle must answer the question: When was the construction of the National Theater of Costa Rica ordered?

The Costa Rican National Theater construction began in 1891, and it opened to the public in 1897.

The institute hired the advertising agency the Blueroom Project to develop the campaign for Spain. However, the institute did not disclose the cost of this advertising campaign.

Commercial flights from Spain are allowed to arrive in Costa Rica, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Spain, but commercial flights from Costa Rica to Spain remain grounded.

This is the second tourism campaign this month, developed by the institute targeting European tourists. The institute is also running an advertising campaign to attract tourists from Great Britain.

The campaign can be seen at the London Waterloo train station in London, which aims to attract both British and European tourists. According to data from the UK Network Trial, more than 90 million trips are registered at Waterloo station per year, the institute said. Data was taken before covid-19.

In the station, 16 large images depicting the country's nature, volcanoes, beaches, among others, have been placed. Each one measures 3 meters high by 6 meters wide.

The campaign "Your Journey Starts Here!" aims to invite the public to live unique experiences in Costa Rica. Along with the giant banners, there are sounds of nature that were installed along a catwalk giving the impression of an impromptu Central American nature tour lasting approximately 120 seconds.

"Promotional actions in the main source markets of Europe have not stopped, although they have been refocused so as not to lose connection with potential tourists," Rodríguez said. "We have the responsibility to maintain the country's position in an increasingly competitive environment due to covid-19 and following the gradual reactivation of flights to our country."

Also, the institute announced that an alliance was made with British company's partners and wholesalers to promote the country and encourage travel. Among those are the tourism companies Trailfinders, Journey Latin America and Explore. They will offer special prices to travel to Costa Rica.

The advertising campaign was designed by the institute and the advertising agency Four Communication, hired by the institute's authorities.

Currently, Costa Rica allows flights from the European Union, the Schengen Area and the U.K. for citizens and residents of these areas. However, according to the list of foreign passengers from countries and territories allowed to enter England, Costa Ricans are not yet authorized to enter the United Kingdom.

According to the institute, flights with the European airlines Iberia of Spain and Lufthansa of Germany are available. And the negotiations for the reactivation of British Airways comes at the end of this year.

According to statistics from the institute, in 2019, Costa Rica was visited by 500,000 European tourists. Of these, more than 78,000 were from the United Kingdom. British tourists tend to travel in couples and as a family, the institute said. The most common activities practiced are outdoors such as hiking, visiting the beaches and volcanoes, observing flora and fauna, and enjoying the hot springs, among others.

Should authorities already allow tourists from all U.S. states to enter the country? 
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