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Tourism sector ‘can no longer endure’ economic crisis, asks for borders to reopen

Three influential figures in Costa Rica’s tourism sector asked the government to set a firm date for reopening the nation’s borders to international tourism.

In a letter published this week by the Costa Rican Hotel Chamber (CCH), its president, Javier Pacheco, said the hotel sector “can no longer endure” the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

A CCH survey found more than half of Costa Rica’s restaurants have already laid off workers during the crisis.

“The announcements of support for tourism are half-hearted, and what the Government has been announcing has not been met or is progressing at a rate that disadvantages us,”  Pacheco said. “If things continue like this, next month there will be total closures of the companies and massive layoffs.”

Among CCH’s asks is that Costa Rica begin welcoming international visitors on July 1.

That argument was echoed by the Guanacaste Tourism Chamber, which said that “every day, the difficult economic situation is aggravated, and thus a balance between health and economic reactivation is essential.”

The Guanacaste Tourism Chamber’s first request is that Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport in Liberia begin accepting international flights.

“The demand of domestic tourism is not enough to reach an equilibrium for the sustainability of businesses,” it said in a letter. “For the reopening of borders, we need a concrete date.”

In an statement to the daily La Nación, Ruben Acón, president of the National Tourism Chamber (CANATUR), explained that the uncertainty about when Costa Rica will reopen its borders creates logistical difficulties for local businesses and makes the country less competitive compared to other international destinations.

Costa Rica closed its borders to arriving tourists on March 19. Since that date, only Costa Rican citizens have been allowed to freely enter and exit the country. Residents who last departed the country before March 25 can return to Costa Rica, as can some others.

The current border restrictions are valid through June 30, though Health Minister Daniel Salas’s recent comments suggest they will almost certainly be extended in some capacity.

“We couldn’t, or wouldn’t, allow tourists from countries that have high transmission at that moment,” Salas said earlier this week.

The Health Minister said this week that he “won’t presume an exact date” for when Costa Rica will allow for international tourism.

In April, Costa Rica’s unemployment rate reached a record 15.7%. It could rise further when May and June are included in future calculations, President Carlos Alvarado acknowledged.

Through Thursday, Costa Rica has registered 1,939 total cases of the coronavirus and 12 deaths.

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