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Costa Rica Tourism Report Q1 2013

Costa Rica tourism market: New market research published

The Costa Rica tourism report examines the significant long-term potential currently being demonstrated by the local tourism industry, but flags concerns about the proliferation of drug-trafficking throughout Central America, which poses a challenge to Costa Rican authorities and could potentially deter tourism to the region. That said, the report also analyses the growth strategies being employed by the country to continue to attract arrivals, including airport and port expansions, as well as continued efforts to remain an eco-tourism destination.

Costa Rica receives the majority of its tourist arrivals from the Americas, with the top three source markets for visitors to the country being the US, Nicaragua and Canada. Tourism arrivals, after increasing from 1.73mn in 2006 to 2.09mn in 2008, dipped to 1.92mn in 2009 due to the global financial crisis. The numbers picked up in 2010 and 2011, rising to an estimated 2.24mn in 2012. Tourism arrivals are forecast to reach 2.36mn in 2013 before growing at an average rate of 6% until the end of our forecast period to 2017 Health tourism is an area where Costa Rica can continue to develop its infrastructure to tap further into a growing market. Already known as a destination for medical tourists, Costa Rica is competing with newer destinations such as Puerto Rico for the millions of Americans, and people from other countries, who travel abroad for medical care. In 2011, medical tourism generated an estimated US$100mn in revenue, according to the Council for International Promotion of Costa Rica Medicine (PROMED).

In the same vein, Costa Rica is making retirement communities a priority to keep visitor numbers up. The country is targeting North American pensioners by doing away with the red tape of residence permits, especially for those in good health. Tax exemptions on real estate and vehicles are also being offered.

Another tourism draw for Costa Rica is spa and wellbeing vacations. The country has been recognised by TripAdvisor users as one of the best places in Central and South America to enjoy spa getaways. Some areas that wellbeing tourists are visiting are the hot springs near the Arenal Volcano, the beaches of the Nicoya Peninsula (mainly for its yoga retreats) and the back-to-nature settings of the Central Valley region.

The planned regeneration of the province of Limón, on the less frequently visited Caribbean coast, has the potential to put upward pressure on inbound tourism numbers. Puerto Limón was once the home of the United Fruit Company (the predecessor of Chiquita Brands International) and the province has two national parks. The parks have the potential to be a large tourism draw. In our view, the development of tourism infrastructure in the region is likely to unlock great potential.

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