Costa Rica will open its borders to foreign tourists from the European Union, the United Kingdom and Canada starting August 1, Tourism Minister Gustavo Segura announced Thursday.
Visitors arriving from the Schengen Area, which comprises some countries not in the EU, are also welcome, the Costa Rica Tourism Board (ICT) clarified later Thursday.
The country expects to receive fewer than five commercial flights per week at the outset, Segura said, representing less than 1% of Costa Rica’s pre-coronavirus flight volume.
“These are drops of hope for more than 600,000 people who directly or indirectly depend on the tourism dynamic,” he said.
The news comes on the same day that Costa Rica announced its highest day-to-day increase in new known coronavirus cases and deaths.
Costa Rica also announced measures to which tourists must adhere if they visit the country.
- Tourists must complete and present an epidemiological survey.
- Tourists must present proof of a negative PCR coronavirus test. The result must have been received within the 48 hours before their travel to Costa Rica.
- Tourists must acquire travel insurance that covers medical care or an unexpected extended hotel stay.
- Tourists must follow all airport and local health protocols. This includes wearing a mask or face shield in nearly all indoors circumstances.
Costa Rica is also easing measures in Yellow Alert cantons starting on August 1. In those areas, beaches will remain open until 2:30 p.m. daily, and all open-air tourism activities (e.g. canopy tours, fishing, surfing lessons), are permitted.
“These are steps that balance with the protection of Costa Ricans — their health and their lives,” Segura said.
The first flights will arrive from Frankfurt, Germany and Madrid, Spain, with offerings from the UK and Canada “in the coming months,” according to Casa Presidencial.
President Carlos Alvarado said Costa Rica is establishing its tourism protocols “with care, with precaution, but also with the commitment to give support to the sector.”
Costa Rica’s borders have been restricted since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic. During that time, Costa Rica has allowed only citizens and residents (with some exceptions) to enter the country.
Tourism comprises an estimated 8.2% of Costa Rica’s GDP.
In 2019, Costa Rica welcomed 3.1 million foreign visitors, 4.1% more than in 2018. Those tourists remained in the country for an average of 12.6 days and spent an average of $1,400, according to the ICT.
Last year, nearly 235,000 people visited Costa Rica from Canada, while more than 500,000 people arrived from Europe.
In 2019, more than 1.3 million tourists came to Costa Rica from the United States, more than any other single country by far. However, due to the North American nation’s surging case total, Costa Rica has not yet authorized commercial flights from the United States.