Tourist arrivals in first three months appear to be a record

Chart shows the monthly variations in the arrival of international tourists from 2007 to the first three months of this year.

The tourism institute confirmed Wednesday that international arrivals were up just short of 8 percent in the first three months of the year.

The increase was 7.8 percent or 49,595 international tourists, said the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo. The total for the three months was 685,959, the institute said.

A.M. Costa Rica reported Wednesday that the percentage of North American tourists had eroded since 2005 and represented just 48 percent of the international tourists in 2010. The tourism institute said Wednesday that U.S. citizens represented 54.2 percent of the tourists who arrived by air but did not give a figure for the percentage of total tourists. Just 68 percent of the tourists arrive by air, it said.

The Wednesday news story noted that a heavy concentration of tourists from Central America, mainly Nicaragua, tends to skew the statistics.

The institute said that in the first three months of this year 363,898 tourists arrived at Juan SantamarĂ­a airport in Alajuela and 100,864 arrived at Daniel Oduber airport in
Liberia. The number of U.S. citizens who came by air was 252,468, the institute said.

Allan Flores, the new minister of Turismo, was quoted as being pleased that the 7.8 percent figure was greater than world average increase, which was nearly 5 percent, according to the U.N. World Tourism Organization. However, the organization also said in a report last week that South American tourism grew by 15 percent. All of the Americas was in line with the 5 percent world average with strong results for South America and the Caribbean, but rather weaker growth in North and Central America, it added.

One cannot extrapolate the number for the first three months to obtain an estimate for the year. Typically tourist arrivals are highest in January, dip to a low point in May, climb again in July and August when the Northern Hemisphere is having vacations, dip again in September and October to begin climbing again in December.

The monthly figures seem to bode well for a tourism recovery because each month was a record. January saw 252,532 tourists. February saw 210,618, and March saw 222,799, according to the institute. That was an average of 8 percent more than the previous year.

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