San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica on pace for record number of tourists

Almost 1.2 million international tourists visited Costa Rica during the first six months of 2011, the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) announced Monday. The 1,197,199 tourists that visited Costa Rica from January to June was a 6.5 percent increase compared to the same period last year. In 2010, nearly 2.1 million tourists visited Costa Rica, a record.

“These figures are encouraging and obligate us as a government to continue working diligently to improve the experience of tourism in Costa Rica, including the average length of stay and spending of those that visit,” said Tourism Minister Allan Flores, in a press release.

The Costa Rican Tourism Board (Canatur) responded to the figures with a statement saying that the numbers were accompanied by a 14 percent decrease in visitors’ average stay and expenditures.   

“Higher numbers of visitation is a sign that the country has been able to remain an attractive tourism destination, however, the perception is that the growth should be accompanied by an improvement in the length of stay and amount of spending,” said Canatur President Juan Carlos Ramos. “Those areas are not growing at a proportional rate to the amount of visitors that come to Costa Rica.”

According to Canatur, in 2010, the average stay for tourists was 9.8 nights in which they spent more than $954. Through the first six months of 2011, those figures fell 14 percent.

Ramos indicated that the exchange rate was the primary cause for the reduced numbers.

“For about a year now, Canatur has reported on the negative effect that the exchange rate is causing in the tourism sector,” he said. “(The exchange rate) makes it more difficult to predict the profitability of the investments. Tourist rates are based in dollars and the fixed costs of the businesses are in colones, which means that, due to exchange rate fluctuations, tourist companies are making 20 percent less than in previous years.” 

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