President downgraded tourism industry with new decree, chambers say

Tourism leaders continue to clash with government officials over public policy decisions. The head of Costa Rica’s tourism chamber says he is disappointed in President Luis Guillermo Solís’ approval of a proposal that includes the category of tourism under the economic ministry.

“The president’s reaction disappoints us and we hope that this is not one of the things that ends up hindering the tourism industry’s development,” said Pablo Heriberto Abarca, president of the Cámara Nacional de Turismo. “There’s an urgent need for the implementation of public policy that oversees the growth of this industry.”

Abarca said this shift shows that the government has thrown tourism into the background, ignoring its substantial contribution to Costa Rica’s economy. Now under the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio, the tourism sector essentially loses its autonomy and becomes a sub sector of the economy, Abarca said.

Numbers from the chamber show that tourism accounts for 500,000 jobs across the country and that 20 percent of Costa Rica’s exports every year come directly from tourist operations.

Abarca said such a sizable contribution to the country’s stability deserves to stand independently.

“When a sector reports data of 2 million annual visitors and the creation of more than $2 billion, that means its a totally revitalizing activity,” Abarca said. “We inconveniently believe the principal driver of Costa Rica’s economy should be treated this way.”

A chamber-wide analysis of tourism’s addition to the economic ministry has expressed worries that economists and politicians who design plans, programs, and policies for the industry will not be as effective as tourism leaders because their focus is dispersed into other areas. Abarca and the chamber leaders say they worry that the tourism industry’s future policy makers know very little about how the sector operates.

Abarca called on President Solís to make future decisions that will best promote the industry’s boom.

“I am making a respectful but vehement call that you, as the government’s leader, address the tourism sector and reassure, as you yourself have reiterated, support for the industry and allow its growth,” Abarca said.

The Cámera de Hotels also said in a release that it was unhappy that tourism was listed as an economic sub-sector instead of sector. The hotel chamber cited a presidential decree Wednesday that basically placed the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo under the economics ministry. The statement urged the government to correct what the chamber called a grave error.

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