Tourism chamber seeks to link numbers with cash

The national tourism chamber says that how long a tourist stays and how much each spends should be considered when assessing the state of the market.

The Cámara Nacional de Turismo took issue with rosy figures reported by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo. The tourism institute said tourists increased 6.5 percent in the first half of the year. But the chamber said that spending dropped 14 percent.

This is no news to many tourism operators who have seen their income constricted. The tourism chamber said that tourist activity should be integrated and considered as a factor in judging the health of the industry.

In 2010 the chamber said that the average tourist stay was 9.8 nights and the amount spent averaged $954.40. That is 14 percent less than before the industry was affected by the world economic crisis, it said.
The goal of the tourism industry is to generate increases in these factors. The chamber also noted that tourism operators were offering more deals and that this suggested the industry has not recovered completely from the downturn of two years ago.

The chamber also noted that the rate of exchange between the Costa Rican colón and the U.S. dollar has had a negative effect. The dollar has dropped about 85 colons or about 17 percent from its high point to the current rate of about 500 colons to the U.S. dollar. Most tourism operators are paid in dollars but have to pay their expenses in colons, so the rate of exchange is a daily issue.

Carlos Ramos, chamber president, estimated the decline in the value of the dollar at 20 percent. The chamber said that it was pleased with the increase in the first half of the year, but urged the government to continue to diversify its tourism marketing to include countries like China, Brazil and Russia as well as the long-time market, the United States.

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