Costa Rica Tourism Report PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 31 March 2010 15:53

After increasing from 2.06 million in 2006 to 2.52 million in 2008, the number of tourism arrivals dipped to an estimated 2.27 million in 2009. Arrival numbers are forecast to increase in 2010 and to grow at an average rate of 8% until the end of our forecast period in 2014.

The majority of tourists visit Costa Rica during the peak season (January-May) and come from the Americas.

Arrivals from the country's three most important source markets - the US, Nicaragua and Canada - increased steadily during 2004 to 2007. However, looking at the inbound tourism data by region, although 2008 continued to trend upwards for North America and Latin America, we are forecasting arrivals numbers from both regions to decrease by 9.45% and 9.81%, respectively, in 2009, before climbing again in 2010.

The next most important source markets in terms of arrivals are, in order, Panama, Mexico and Spain.

The main growth drivers for the industry are ecotourism and health tourism. Costa Rica has 32 national parks, eight biological reserves, 13 forest reserves and 51 wildlife refuges.

The industry suffered slightly in 2009 due to the global recession, particularly in relation to the US, and the H1N1 virus (swine flu), however it is forecast to achieve a relatively quick turnaround in 2010.

Daniel Oduber International Airport

The continued expansion of the Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia  and the growing amount of chartered flights from Europe all have the potential to drive growth in the market. Furthermore, the planned development of the Caribbean Limón province looks set to bring more tourists to this less developed Costa Rican province. Indeed, already the province's port has served as the finish line for the Transat Jacques Vabre sailboat race in 2009 and the race is scheduled to finish there in 2011, 2013 and 2015 as well. The port has also been added as a port of call in 2010 to two luxury cruise liners' schedules And there is a concession for the development of another port in Limón.

Costa Rica's tourism industry is a major contributor to the economy, accounting for 7.8% of GDP in 2008 and nearly 3% of total employment in 2006, or 49,000 individuals, according to data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

However, the industry's contribution to GDP is forecast to steadily decline, from 7.2% in 2009 to 4.7% by 2014.

Collective government expenditure on tourism was an estimated US$28.4 million in 2009, a slight dip from the previous year. Collective government expenditure is forecast to bounce back to US$28.5 million by 2011. Expenditure is then forecast to rise to US$32.8 million by the end of the forecast period in 2014.

The government has added a tax on inbound airfares. The legislation places an additional fee of US$15 on all airfares, replacing the 3% hotel tax.

Part of the revenue from the tax, which is expected to be more than US$80 million per year, will fund some activities of Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT), including marketing, promotion and planning.

The change in taxation came about due to the increasing amount of condominium and other private rentals that were not included under the umbrella of the hotel tax.

New hotel developments are ongoing in the country, with major international companies such as the InterC ontinental Hotels Group, Marriott and Barceló Hotels & Resorts constructing hotels near the beaches and in urban centres.