New Covid-19 Wave Puts Costa Rica’s Tourist Recovery in Harm’s Way

Caribbean News…
03 May 2021 6:42pm
coast of Costa Rica viewed from above

(Reuters) - Costa Rica's internationally renowned green escapes are likely to suffer through a second year of costly tourist hesitancy as the spread of the pandemic intensifies in the Central American nation, further battering the key travel sector.

Amid an April surge of COVID-19 infections, hospital beds are scarce in the tropical country. Its infection rate last week surpassed even tragedy-struck India and Brazil, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Given the lack of widespread testing, the real figures could be even worse.

Costa Rica's hoteliers and other travel businesses expected increasingly vaccinated travelers from top markets in North American and Europe to inject an infusion of cash for the industry after record-low visits last year, but that does not seem likely anymore.

Costa Rica's tourism sector in pre-pandemic 2019 was estimated at about $5 billion, or about 8.5% of the country's GDP.

The central bank forecasts less than 800,000 foreign tourists visiting Costa Rica this year, which would mark a more than 20% slide from last year. And last year saw only a third of the international travelers who visited in 2019, or about 1.01 million, which was the fewest in more than two decades.

During the first three months of this year, which is typically high season, visits were down a whopping 76% compared to the same period last year as lockdown-weary travelers with money to spend resisted the urge to vacation among the country's vibrant wildlife and pristine beaches.

Tourism Minister Gustavo Segura acknowledged a worsening scenario.

"We trust we'll be able to control the situation for our population soon, but we can't deny that some people will decide to postpone visits," he told Reuters, though he stressed he did not have official figures on cancellations.

He argued the country's famed eco-tourism naturally promotes outdoor social distancing, and pitched the travel sector's high standards for hygiene.

To bolster his point, the minister pointed to official data for the first four months of the year showing that less than 1% of tourists tested positive for COVID-19 as they exited the country.

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