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Tourism companies fear new blow as Costa Rica high season ends

Costa Rican tourism companies face new uncertainty with the end of the high season for visitation paired with the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Over the first five months of 2021, Costa Rica has welcomed 391,853 international arrivals, down 55% compared to 2020 and 73.5% compared to 2019. That hasn’t been enough to sustain many businesses, especially after the “zero season” of last year, according to many in the sector.

“At this moment, no one is earning a profit: Not the hoteliers, not the tour operators, not the agencies and not the transporters,” said Javier Pacheco, representative of the Hotel Chamber, in an interview with Teletica.

Pacheco said that the tourism rebound during the first months of 2021 was not as big as expected, and that “in this moment, we need restructuring of debts and access to capital to keep businesses open.”

That sentiment was echoed by Shirley Calvo, director of the National Tourism Chamber (CANATUR), who said the sector doesn’t have enough access to financing moving forward.

Now, a new challenge looms: Typically, September and October are the months during which the fewest people visit Costa Rica.

In 2019, for example, 160,200 people visited Costa Rica in September, less than half the number of arrivals compared to March or December.

“In order to withstand the crisis and before the arrival of what could be a new zero season, the sector requires financial help,” the Teletica report reads.

According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), between January and March 2021, destinations around the world welcomed 180 million fewer international arrivals compared to the first quarter of last year.

The UNWTO says “nearly half of the experts do not see a return to 2019 international tourism levels before 2024 or later,” though confidence in travel is increasing.

“Vaccinations will be key for recovery, but we must improve coordination and communication while making testing easier and more affordable if we want to see a rebound for the summer season in the northern hemisphere,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.

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