San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Arrivals at Liberia Airport Climb 24 Percent

The number of tourists who landed in January and February at the DanielOduberInternationalAirport in Liberia, a short drive from popular beaches in Costa Rica’s northern Pacific province of Guanacaste, was up more than 24 percent from the same span in 2009, according to the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT).

The Liberia airport saw 50,427 arrivals in the first two months of the year, up from 40,564 in the same period last year. This was the highest percentage increase in an overall upward trend for arrivals, which  officials said indicates Costa Rica’s tourism industry is climbing back to the banner-year numbers of 2008, after taking a hit last year during the Great Recession.

The total number of tourist arrivals in Costa Rica increased by 4.3 percent in January and 16.5 percent in February over the same months in 2009. In the first two months of the year, Costa Rica welcomed 428,233 visitors, an increase of 37,405, or 9.57 percent, from the same period last year.

“These figures are similar to those registered in the beginning of 2008, when tourism in the country still hadn’t suffered  the impact of the international economic crisis,” said Tourism Minister Allan Flores. “Although there are still regions and companies being affected by the drop in visitors reported in 2009, these numbers are a good sign of recovery.”

The ICT said January and February 2010 the number of tourist arrivals at Costa Rica’s busiest airport, Juan Santamaría International Airport, in Alajuela, northwest of San José, rose less dramatically than those at the Liberia airport, but they still came in nearly 9 percent above the total in the first two months of 2009.

Arrivals by land increased by just over 5 percent over last year, according to the numbers released Thursday by the ICT. The tourism board based all of these figures on an analysis of data collected by the Immigration Administration, according to an ICT news release.

The new numbers come just as travel companies are gearing up for Semana Santa, or Easter week, which runs from March 28 through April 4. A recent survey by the National Tourism Chamber found that hotels, tour operators and car rental companies expect an 80.2 percent occupancy rate during these popular travel dates.

–Alex Leff

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