Despite Crimea, Russia still honored festival guest

Russia will remain the country of honor for the Festival Internacional de las Artes that kicks off this week. Despite the country’s controversial and widely disapproved invasion of Crimea, a spokeswoman for the festival said that nothing has changed with regards to its honorary status and that Russian artists had arrived Monday morning.

Musical groups Bis-Quit, Biélie Yuravli, and the Pyatnitsky Choir are set to perform between April 9 and April 13. The latter is a folk group that has garnered high accolades. Founded in 1910, the popular choir now has more than 100 members. They will sing at the Teatro Melico Salazar April 12 and April 13.

The decision to highlight Russian art at this year’s version of the festival was originally decided last December. Ukraine will also be represented in the festival as the theater group Beautiful Flowers is scheduled to air its play “FAT” for two nights at Teatro Nacional.

Also on Monday the Costa Rican government announced it would eliminate visa requirements for Russian citizens. Officials said this would open up a previously dormant investment opportunity for the country’s tourism industry.

Allan Flores, the minister of Turismo, said attracting a large market like Russia has always been one of the government’s goals.

“The Russian market represents a business opportunity in which all countries receiving their tourists are interested in joining,” Flores said. “The easing of the visa policy means there should be significant increase not only in visitation, but also with a positive impact on the economy.”

Representatives of some Costa Rican businesses and some tourism employees recently attended a travel show in Moscow.

According to the World Tourism Organization, Russia had the highest growth in international tourist spending. Those who travel to Costa Rica are usually younger travelers, between the ages of 25 and 35. On average they stay for 10 days and spend upwards of $5,000 inside Costa Rica. In 2013 the country received a little more than 4,000 Russian visitors.

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