Costa Rica is planning a very gradual reopening for international tourists, Health Minister Daniel Salas said Tuesday.
In his most direct comments on the subject in weeks, Salas said the Health Ministry is working with the Tourism Board and other government institutions to establish a protocol for international visitors.
But it may be months before tourists can freely book flights to Costa Rica, he suggested.
Below is what Daniel Salas said Tuesday, edited lightly for clarity:
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On reopening for international tourists: We have been working on protocols with the Transport Ministry, with the Tourism Board, with the Immigration Administration and obviously the Health Ministry, to eventually make this possible.
It would be with strict controls, in a very, very gradual and scaled way, so that in some moment we’d allow tourists coming from countries without mass transmission.
Tests, insurance — that’s part of what’s being analyzed to see what are the conditions that in their moment will be announced. We won’t preview that now, because we’re still building that plan to allow for reopening.
As I mentioned, it will be very gradual, very restricted, and a very controlled arrival of tourists.
On when Costa Rica will welcome international tourists: We’ll see what the data are telling us. How can we manage with certain [businesses], for example hotels, that may need guidelines. All of that is in play with this protocol.
As I indicated, it will be over the course of the year, but I won’t presume an exact date.
On the reactivation of domestic tourism: As we’ve been indicating, let’s remember that there are places that present a more complicated situation, where there is a bigger risk. As the the National Emergency Commission said, that is being evaluated constantly.
It’s clear that the scale of alerts has to correspond with the plans for reopening. We’re analyzing this, and Thursday or Friday we’ll announce the next phases.
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Costa Rica is currently restricting the arrival of non-resident foreigners through June 30, though given Salas’s comments, that date seems likely to be extended.
Tourism comprises an estimated 8.2% of Costa Rica’s GDP. The Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT) is promoting domestic tourism during the coronavirus crisis, though outbreaks in the Northern Zone have led to reapplied measures.
In 2019, Costa Rica welcomed 3.1 million foreign visitors, 4.1% more than in 2018. Those tourists remain in the country for an average of 12.6 days and spend an average of $1,400, according to the ICT.
The United States is the country from which the most tourists visit Costa Rica — almost 1.3 million people last year.