Lawmaker questions accuracy of tourism statistics

A top tourism official admitted to a legislative committee Thursday that the tourism statistics include plenty of Nicaraguans.

The only Nicaraguans who are not counted as tourists are those who have pre-approved work permits, said Alberto López, the general manager of the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo.

That means the majority of Nicaraguans who come to Costa Rica seeking work or for non-tourism reasons are categorized as tourists.

López made his comments before the  Comisión de Turismo, which is seeking an explanation from the tourism institute about its report that the country hosted 2.66 million tourists last year.

We know that not all the foreigners who enter Costa Rica in search of work have that permission,” said Karla Prendas Matarrita, a member of the commission. She wondered why the government would include the job-seekers in the tourism statistics.

She said that what López said is evidence that the statistics released by the government were not accurate.

Perhaps as many as 500,000 Nicaraguans took advantage of lax border control policies last year to enter Costa Rica, although the full details of nationalities are not yet available.

The lawmaker also questions López why Costa Rica could report just a 5.3 percent increase in tourism for 2015 when the rest of Central America reported growth of about 7 percent.

She said that Nicaragua and Panamá are attracting tourists at a faster pace compared to 2014 figures, and she urged López to analyze what was happening.

Ms. Prendas noted that a decree provides that the popular Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio is closed Mondays, and she said that she was pushing President Luis Guillermo Solís to plan how problems there could be addressed.

A.M. Costa Rica reported earlier this week that the tourism institute’s own Web page said that some 15 percent of the persons who come to Costa Rica and are classified as tourists really are involved in business or other professional pursuits.

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