Tourism Minister Carlos Ricardo Benavides on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding with the president of the Chinese Tourism Authority Qi Wei Chao in Beijing, with the aim of facilitating tourism to Costa Rica by Chinese citizens.
The move came on the same day as preliminary meetings were held with a Chinese delegation in Costa Rica to analyze the possibility of implementing a free-trade agreement between the two nations.
Costa Rica opened diplomatic ties with China in June, ending a long relationship with Taiwan. However, up until now, stringent regulations have made it difficult for Chinese tourists to obtain a Costa Rican visa – a contradictory stance that had caused some embarrassment for the Arias administration (TT, Jan. 4).
The Chinese government estimates that 200 million of its citizens will be traveling as tourists by 2020. Costa Rica is well placed to claim its share of this emerging market as it is listed as a recommended destination by Chinese authorities and has been invited to participate in a trade fair to take place in November, the Costa Rican daily La República reported this week.
In return, Costa Rica has invited representatives of China’s tourism industry to visit Costa Rica, La República reported. The new agreement will come into force in one month’s time.
Tourism officials are also meeting with representatives of Chinese airlines to discuss increasing services between the two countries.
Currently Air China is the only Chinese carrier to fly to Latin America, and its service is limited. However the company is likely to add new destinations following the discussions.
A meeting is also scheduled with China Eastern Airlines in Shanghai on Jan. 12, La República reported.
“The opportunities presented by this visit, and by the signing of the Memorandum, will be highly significant in encouraging the flow of tourists to Costa Rica,” said National Tourism Chamber (CANATUR) President Gonzalo Vargas.