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Coronavirus pandemic begins to affect Costa Rica’s tourism industry

March 12, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a significant reduction in international travel, a trend with direct impacts on one of Costa Rica’s most important industries.

The National Tourism Chamber (CANATUR) reported Thursday that COVID-19 has caused “strong effects in terms of cancellations, requests to change itineraries and a decrease in future reservations.”

“It was evident that the cancellations of reservations have intensified this week, which is hitting the tourism industry hard in the height of the high season,” the National Tourism Chamber said.

The Costa Rican Hotel Association (CCH) says visitors have canceled more than 8,000 hotel nights — the majority in April, May and June.

And cancellations in Costa Rica could increase after the U.S. State Department issued a global travel advisory late Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, the Costa Rican Association of Travel Agencies indicated that agencies have canceled about 90% of reservations made to Europe and Eastern Asia, and future reservations have fallen by 50%.

“Although March presents cancellations, one of the situations that most worries the sector is the downward trend in reservations that has been seen in practically all the tourist activities we consulted for the following months,” the National Tourism Chamber said.

In a Wednesday interview on Channel 7 TV News, María Amalia Revelo, Costa Rica’s Tourism Minister, said her agency is analyzing different scenarios to predict how severely the industry will be affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

While the Costa Rica Tourism Board (ICT) didn’t provide concrete data, the Tourism Minister recognized April through June “will be difficult.”

“We don’t want to minimize the situation,” Amalia Revelo said.

ICT is working with the Costa Rican presidency to offer support for the small businesses that comprise the majority of the country’s tourism sector.

“In this moment, we are working with the President and economic council to announce mitigation efforts next week,” she said. “There will be important support for that sector.”

Costa Rica received 3.1 million foreign visitors last year, and nearly 220,000 people are employed in the tourism sector, according to official data.

Foreign visitors stay in Costa Rica for an average of 12.6 days and spend an average of $1,400.

The United States is the country from which the most tourists arrive in Costa Rica — almost 1.3 million people in 2019. European visitors in 2019 surpassed 500,000 people for the first time.

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