How Tourism Is Slowly Making a Comeback in Costa Rica

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The tourism industry is one of the world’s biggest economic sectors and the third-largest export category according to the World Tourism Organization

Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has seriously impacted all aspects of the industry with a cascading effect on many other related businesses.  

The fallout from travel restrictions and nationwide shutdowns has affected the livelihoods of millions of people around the world who depend on tourism for their income. It is estimated that tourism supports one in 10 jobs in both developing and developed countries.

The nation of Costa Rica is especially dependent on international tourism, especially from the United States. It is estimated that only one-third of the international tourists it had in 2019 will travel to Costa Rica in 2021, about the same number as 2020 or just over one million foreign travelers. 

Gustavo Segura, Costa Rica’s Tourism Minister projects that income from tourism in 2021 will only account for 3.5% of GDP or about one-third of the 2019 percentage and that the industry will lose about one-half the employment it generated or about 100,000 jobs.

Costa Rica does have two distinct advantages for a relatively quick rebound in tourism which most nations are hoping to experience later this year.

First, is the country's ecotourism. Most activities are inherently socially distanced and out of doors. Second, is the responsiveness to and the diligence of the Costa Rican people regarding the pandemic. 

The nation’s coordinated efforts to “flatten the curve” have been praised by leading public health officials and the numbers reflect the county’s efforts to keep the pandemic under control. To date, there have been fewer than 2,900 COVID-related deaths since the pandemic began.

Perhaps. the Costa Rican belief in natural living epitomized in the national saying “Pura Vida” will pay off with a return to normal for the travel industry. 

Editor's note: This report was produced by TheStreet's Roland Marconi with additional footage by Andrea Arnold

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