The big question among hospitality operators for the last three years has been: Where are all the tourists?
Tourism operators complain, but the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo issues statistical reports showing that the current year is much better than the previous year. And these are true statements.
In the first six months of 2012 some 856,672 persons labeled tourists came to Costa Rica. That number is 50,000 greater than during the first six months of 2011.
However, the new Asociacion Para La Proteccion Del Turismo en Costa Rica chose to look further back to the boom years of 2007, 2008 and 2009. The statistics give a different picture. The association’s figures were confirmed by tourism institute statistics in the A.M. Costa Rica news library.
When compared to January 2007, the same months in 2011 show a drop of 22.5 percent in tourist arrivals and a drop of 19.5 percent in 2012. Four of the first six months in 2011 show declines more than 20 percent, and three of the first six months in 2012 also are down at least 20 percent.
When compared to May 2007, the month of May 2011 shows a startling 32.4 percent decline.
For 2012 there were 161,479 fewer tourists in the first six months of the year than for the same period in 2007. In 2007 there were 1,018,151 visitors, according to the tourism institute figures. In the first six months of this year, the number was 856,672. That is a difference of 15.8 percent.
The tourism group known as ProTur also notes that there were 8,000 more hospitality rooms constructed in the country since 2007.
Neither ProTur in this posting on its Facebook pagenor the tourism institute address the question of who actually are the tourists who are counted.
A.M. Costa Rica has reported for the last 11 years that hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans and other Central American visitors are counted along with tourists from North America and that this skews the understanding of the statistics. So far this year, the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería has been unable to provide arrival data by nationality.