San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

As tourism sector reels from bad year, fishing nets more visitors

Bucking a trend in which tourist numbers dropped nearly 8 percent last year, sportfishing in Costa Rica actually became even more popular. The pastime drew 12.65 percent more tourists last year compared with 2008, a new study by the National Tourism Chamber (CANATUR) shows.

Some 85,636 visitors participated in sportfishing, making up more than 4 percent of the total number of tourists who vacationed in Costa Rica last year. These findings come from a CANATUR survey carried out among travelers at Juan Santamaría International Airport, northwest of San José, and Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia, the principal city of the northwest province of Guanacaste.

The new tally shows signs of the sector´s rebound after declining from a high of 94,312 visiting sportfishing enthusiasts in 2007. According to Donald McGuinness, president of the Costa Rican Sportfishing Federation, the industry helps diversify Costa Rica´s tourism offerings, generates employment and attracts tourists with higher-than-average purchasing power.

However, he added that neighbors in the region, such as Panama, pose stiff competition in reeling in visitors looking to fish.

Overall, a total of 1,922,579 tourists visited Costa Rica last year. The number represents the first decline since 2002, CANATUR said, citing the recession in the United States – home to the bulk of this country´s visitors – as a leading factor.

Expecting a turnaround this year, the chamber predicts growth of up to 5 percent in overall numbers of tourists.

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