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3.1 million tourists visited Costa Rica last year. Here’s where they all came from

February 10, 2020

Costa Rica received 3.1 million foreign visitors last year, 4.1% more than in 2018, according to figures released by the government earlier this month.

Where did they all come from? Let’s dive in:

Most tourists arrived from North America

Of the 3,139,008 international visitors to Costa Rica in 2019, more than half (1,666,571) came from North America. Of those, the vast majority originated in the United States.

More than 1.3 million tourists came from the United States, more than any other country — by far. In fact, all of Europe registered “just” 500,602 visits to Costa Rica in 2019.

The 1,334,777 arrivals from the United States marked a 5.5% increase over 2018. Canada’s 234,621 visitors in 2019 were an even more significant uptick over 2018 at an 8.1% jump.

Central America and Europe played big roles

After North America, Central America and Europe were the regions that generated the highest numbers of visitors to Costa Rica.

Nicaragua comprised the majority of Central American visits; more than 59% of the region’s arrivals were from Costa Rica’s neighbors to the north. (On a related note, Costa Rica says it received more than 70,000 refugee requests from Nicaragua in 2018 and 2019 alone.)

As for Europe, Germany (80,580) narrowly beat out the United Kingdom (78,562) in terms of visitors to Costa Rica. Not unsurprisingly, the countries that contributed most to Costa Rica’s tourism industry (Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and The Netherlands) all have airlines with direct flights here.

Air travel remains paramount

Of the 3.1 million international visitors to Costa Rica, the vast majority arrived via airplane.

The Costa Rican Tourism Board recorded 2,418,300 arrivals via air travel, with a notable exception of Nicaraguans (just 4.4% came to Costa Rica via airplane).

Of the 2,418,300 international visitors who came to Costa Rica via airplane, 1,817,043 transited through Juan Santamaría International Airport in Alajuela.

Just under 600,000 people transited through Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport — an 8.5% increase over 2018. This is likely to grow further in 2020 after several airlines inaugurated new flights to the Liberia airport.

An oddity: Tourism boom from North Korea

Costa Rica received a single visitor from North Korea. He or she arrived in December 2019.

Source: The Costa Rican Tourism Board’s annual report.

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