Monday, November 7, 2011

Costa Rican Tourism Drops by 3.9%

Costa Rica's Cámara Nacional de Turismo has reported that tourist visits are projected to decline by as much as 3.9 in the third quarter of the year (2011), a considerable drop from its 2010 project of 5%. In essence, that means that roughly 12,275 fewer visitors will have arrived during the same period in 2010. Consequently, Costa Rica is expected to focus primarily on Russia, China and Brazil in terms of its marketing efforts.

Despite the candy-coated optimism, the reality is that all nations worldwide are facing revenue declines in most areas of commerce, but particularly tourism, inasmuch as it is discretionary activity. Clearly, Costa Rica is no exception.

COMMENT: There are some obvious examples as to why tourism levels may be flat in 2011. One explanation as to why foreign tourists go to Mexico is because they can get a 180-day visa as compared to Costa Rica's 90-day limit.

Additionally, tourists to Costa Rica face a US$15 ARRIVAL tax, one of the few countries to have such a thing. Moreover, local taxes on just about everything is due to edge up to 14%. All and all, the costs of visiting Costa Rica have dramatically gone up, including the cost of rental cars, even though the price of gas has not.

If you believe everything you read in the newspapers, Kabul may be safer than many places in Mexico, yet for those who do the research and talk to credible people, there are countless places to relax in Mexico without fear of being caught up in a fire-fight between rival drug gangs.

Actually, crime has also risen in Costa Rica, where larceny, burglary, muggings, home invasions and even armed carjackings are frequently occurring. Most alarming is the fact that during the last two years, eight foreign nationals have disappeared in Costa Rica.

In recent years, the over promotion of retirement villages and all-inclusive resorts in Costa Rica did not result in booming sales. Even in 2010, while tourism did well, most visitors stayed for fewer days and spent much less money than they did in 2009.

Don't get me wrong, Costa Rica is a great destination if money is no object, but even the wealthy are doing comparative shopping. Personally, I don't recommend tourism to Honduras for obvious security reasons, but Panama, Belize, Nicaragua and even Guatemala offer far more bang for the tourist buck.

What most governmental tourism executives "don't get" is the fact that increasing revenue from tourism is directly related to building relationships with tourism and business organizations so that travelers that visit for the first time will return time and time again.

A final thought. Although excessively high traffic violation fines are under judicial review, drive carefully and under the speed limit in Costa Rica, as some tickets can easily run into the hundreds of dollars.

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