San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

New signs suggest tourism is recovering

More travelers and more foreign investors could make 2011 a turnaround year for Costa Rica’s top income generator.

In January, tourism visits in the northern province of Guanacaste, partly a bellwether for Costa Rican tourism trends, increased by more than 28 percent over the same month last year. That figure represents 31,637 foreigner visitors, a local record for the province. The previous high was 29,206 visitors in March 2008. Most were from U.S., Canada and the U.K.

Currently, 42 direct weekly flights land at the Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport, based in Liberia. This is an increase of 14 percent in the past year, according to the Civil Aviation Authority.

Apple Vacations, Air Canada, TUI and first choice are among the flight companies that now include Guanacaste as a destination.

“It seems that this is going to be great year for the industry,” said Tourism Minister Carlos Benavidez. 

Last year, medical tourism generated $250 million in revenue for Costa Rica’s health services industry, according to Massimo Manzi, executive director of the Council for International Promotion of Costa Rica Medicine, or Promed (TT, Jan. 28).  In December and January, growth reached 10 percent.

Earlier this month, several representatives from big U.S. insurance firms visited Costa Rica to inspect local hospitals and clinics. They’ll use what they find to fine-tune a new insurance product for corporate clients that could pave the way for even more health-care options for international patients.

The group of experts included insurance brokers, cost analysts and political advisers. During the tour of medical centers, each verified that sites comply with international safety and quality regulations. 

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