South America, Europe led 2013 tourism increase

Tourism officials were congratulating themselves Thursday as they reported a 3.6 percent increase in international arrivals over the number in 2012.

A look at the statistics in detail, however, reveals less than a 1 percent increase from the United States with 8,305 more visitors.

Canada was up nearly 5 percent at 160,398 visitors, some 8,830 more than in 2012. Europe also was up nearly 6 percent with an increase of 15,946 visitors for a total of 300,942.

Central America was up 2.1 percent, but because there were 736,161 recorded persons from there, that percentage represents 15,112 persons. Some 802,040 persons entered at one of the ground border crossings either from Nicaragua or Panamá.

The big jump was 20.3 percent more visitors from South America. That brought an additional 27,738 persons into the country. Arrivals from that continent were 164,224.

Canada and the United States jointly contributed 1,089,800 arrivals, 1.6 percent more than in 2012. Canada, the United States and Europe jointly contributed 1,389,742 visitors, an increase over 2012 of 33,081 or about 2.4 percent

All of the arrivals do not mean traditional tourists. One troubling aspect was a decrease of 807 arrivals at the Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia. This is the airport that feeds the Guanacaste beach resorts. Still, 330,309 persons arrived there in 2013, said the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo.

The tourism institute used statistics from the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería. The numbers did not include Costa Ricans or individuals arriving here on temporary work permits, said the institute. In the past, the statistics included cruise ship passengers who participate in land visits at Puntarenas or Limón,

Allan Flores, the tourism minister, said in a news release that his agency has worked intensely to strengthen the country’s presence in the principal tourism markets such as the United States, Canada and Europe with aggressive strategies of promotion and publicity as well as entering the new market in South America, China and Russia.”

The Cámera Nacional de Turismo was quick to respond to the statistics. The 2010-2016 national tourism plan calls for annual increases of 5 percent, said the chamber.

Isabel Vargas, president of the chamber, was quoted in another press release saying that the country had a lot to offer, and although the increase in the number of visitors is positive, those in the industry cannot be satisfied because the percentage is not sufficient. The country can attract more tourists than it has, she said.

Costa Rica’s tourism institute has engaged in experimental promotions. The institute backed the creation of murals in European railway stations. In the United States it promoted the country with a talking sloth and more recently with advertisements at movie houses.

The tourism institute placed a major bet on the 2011 $6.4 million talking sloth campaign engineered by an Atlanta, Georgia, firm, 22Squared, which is a fan of the social media. The institute gave away about 80 trips to Costa Rica. The latest campaign presents a slick video to U.S. movie audiences.

The tourism announcement also praised the institute’s Web site,

Although there is a lot of information on the Web site, the Web monitoring subsidiary Alexa says that 54.6 percent of the visits never go further than the first page. The Web site has a global readership rank of 156,999 and a rank in the United States of 65,745, said Alexa. By contrast, A.M. Costa Rica has a global rank of 65,894 and a U.S. rank of 62,170.

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