2014 tourism growth was less than many Central American countries

Costa Rica with a 4.1 percent increase in tourism in 2014 lagged behind all but Panamá and Honduras in the percentage of growth.

World Tourism Organization figures say that Costa Rica attracted 2,427,941 arrivals in 2014. That’s 98,876 more than the previous year.

But Belize showed 10.8 percent growth. Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador all had higher growth figures than Costa Rica.

Panamá posted a 4.0 percent increase, and troubled Honduras showed just 2 percent.

The figures were compiled by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo, which offered them at a press conference Thursday.

The institute said that the total arrivals in Costa Rica really were 2,526,817, a bit higher than the World Tourism Organization figures. But the percentage of increase still was 4.1 percent.

During the entire presentation there was no acknowledgement by tourism officials that more than 400,000 of the so-called tourists came from adjacent Nicaragua. This has been a continuing source of confusion with tourism figures. The statistics show that Central American tourism increased 5.8 percent in 2014.

Just 67.5 percent of the tourists come from North America, which includes México.

Europe which provided 16.5 percent of the nation’s tourists showed a growth of 19.9 percent despite economic woes in the Eurozone.

Asian tourism was up 11.9 percent, but there were only 7,017 visitors. The country seeks to attract Chinese visitors, but William von Breymann, the minister, noted that there are no direct flights from the Asian giant to here.

The arrival statistics that the tourism institute presented came from the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería. They showed that 796,405 persons entered the country by land in 2014.

The institute considers every foreigner who enters the country to be a tourist.

Many of the institute’s statistics are gathered by survey takers at the two international airports. The institute reports how long an average tourist stays in the country and how much they spend, although the numbers probably do not have statistical rigor.  The Banco Central supplied figures for the total annual income from tourists, which was set at $2.6 billion.

Von Breymann fielded a question from a reporter about possible strategies to fight competition from Cuba if the United States loosens travel restrictions on its citizens. He did not outline a strategy but said that all Cuba can offer is sun and sand while Costa Rica has many more diverse attractions.

Cuba hopes to attract 3 million tourists this year despite the travel embargo.

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