Decline in tourists prompts call for new markets

The national tourism chamber has expressed its concern because it said tourist visits are off 3.9 percent in the third quarter of the year.

The chamber said that the country probably will not reach its goal of a 5 percent annual increase over 2010.

The statistics are limited to tourism arrivals by air. The Cámara Nacional de Turismo said that 312,659 tourists arrived that way in July, August and September. That’s 12,275 fewer than in the same period in 2010, it said.

The chamber called on the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo to focus on new markets to boost the number of international tourists. The chamber suggested Russia, China and Brazil.

The chamber’s numbers are at variance with statistics maintained by A.M. Costa Rica, which show 366,968 air arrivals at both international airports for the three months of July, August and September 2010. That would mean a decline of 54,309 tourists this year. That discrepancy could not be resolved late Monday. If the A.M. Costa Rica figures are correct, the decline in tourism is 15 percent.

The tourism institute has just kicked off a $2.9 million trip givaway promotion in most of the United States and Canada. That runs through February. Even in the tourism institute itself there are grumblings about the scope of the promotion, which uses Facebook as a base. Those geographical
areas are the traditional markets for Costa Rica.

Juan Carlos Ramos, head of the chamber, said that even though the period generating the statistics is the low season, the country ought to look for other markets.

In the last few years the air route represented about 69 percent of the country’s entire tourism, the chamber said.

For the entire first nine months of the year, tourism is up 2.3 percent when compared to 2010. The Liberia airport, Daniel Oduber, is up 15.5 percent, the chamber said but Juan Santamaría airport in Alajuela is down nearly two-tenths of a percent, the chamber noted.

Costa Rica’s tourism is overstated because the tourism institute, using immigration department figures, includes a large number of persons who are not traditional tourists even though they may arrive as such.

For the year 2010 the tourism institute reported 2,099,829 tourists had visited the country. However, only half that number came from North America, including México. Some 642,517 came from other Central American states, including 427,362 from Nicaragua. There were 277,412 European visitors but only 2,583 from Russia.

Citizens of many Asian countries, including mainland China, require a consular visa to visit Costa Rica. The chamber already has called on the Chinchilla administration to reduce the paperwork for such visas.

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