Tourism chamber officials call 2011 a year in transition

The year 2011 has not been a very positive one for tourism, according to the national chamber. In fact, tourist arrivals by air are down 4 percent in July, August and September, said the chamber.

Consequently, the chamber, the Cámara Nacional de Turismo, has called 2011 a year of transition and is setting its sights on three major goals for 2012. They are competitivity, the dollar exchange rate and diversification of the market.

The chamber issued a statement outlining its views last week.

The current year began well with an increase of 6.5 percent in tourist arrivals during the first six months, said the chamber. It noted that the decline of tourists by air involves the principal access route to the country.

Tourists are cautious with their money and their economic resources during vacation, noted Juan Carlos Ramos chamber president. This situation is felt in all the tourist activities from souvenir shops to tourist housing, he noted. For the chamber, the world economic situation is one factor that has destabilized the growth of tourism here. Another factor is the policies of the Banco Centro, the chamber said.

Measures of austerity elsewhere are affecting Costa Rica, said Ramos, who also noted that the rate of exchange between the
dollar and the colon had changed by 18 percent. Typically tourism operators receive payment in U.S. dollars but pay bills in colons, so a dip in the exchange rate is costly.

The chamber said it was hoping that two measures in the legislature would improve the competitivity of the country. One was a revised tourism law and another to permit the sale of alcohol during Holy Week. The measures have been before the legislature for three years, Ramos noted.

He also cited the condition of the country’s infrastructure as generating a bad image for the country. Among the problems are the state of the highways, he said. The chamber president noted that the country dropped in its competitivity ranking two positions in the assessment provided by the World Economic Forum.

The chamber also cited the excessive paperwork and approvals facing investors who seek to develop a new tourism project.

Ramos also said that the country must offer visitors personal security.

As has been mentioned in the past, the chamber would like the country to seek more tourists from developing nations.

It added that the 5 percent increase in annual visits is reasonable, but that depends on the world economic situation and internal policies like the proposed tax plan.

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