Costa Rica: Inspiring travellers to reconnect with nature’s wonders
Costa Rica is ready to welcome Canadian travellers back and the country’s Minister of Tourism, Gustavo Segura Sancho talks with Canadian Travel Press this week about the steps the country has taken to provide travellers with both a safe and enjoyable travel experience.
What is the state of Costa Rica’s tourism industry today? What does the big picture look like?
Tourism makes up 8.2% of Costa Rica’s GDP and provides hundreds of thousands of jobs each year, which are essential to the country’s economic growth and development. In 2019, we welcomed more than 3.1 million international travellers, many of them from Canada.
COVID-19 has severely impacted the Costa Rican economy, leaving many workers without jobs and pay for several months. Within a context of unprecedented fiscal challenges for Costa Rica, a few proposals have been submitted to the Costa Rican economic government authorities which, pending approval by Congress, would provide monetary aid and resources to vulnerable micro, small and medium-sized tourism businesses registered with the Costa Rican Tourism Institute.
Cultural institutions and other tourism businesses throughout the country have not wasted any time in adapting to the careful measures the Costa Rican government and Ministry of Health have implemented. They have used this time to establish new health and safety protocols; make repairs and implement employee training; offer virtual festivals, performances, and presentations; and offer discounts for future travel.
The decision to remove the requirement to present a negative RT-PCR test to enter Costa Rica was backed by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Our hope is that this will aid our tourism industry and economy’s recovery and bring back several thousands of tourism jobs.
It is my goal to balance the short-term emotional, physical, and financial needs of stakeholders in the tourism industry without losing sight of the long-term task of ensuring that Costa Rica remains a key player in international tourism.
I understand that Costa Rica is beginning to reopen to international tourists – what are some of the things that Canadian travel agents and tour operators need to know about the reopening?
Canadian travel agents and tour operators should familiarize themselves with our entry requirements, travel insurance requirements, health and safety protocols, and also understand that much of our country’s tourism offerings and accommodations are found in nature, which makes a physically distant and enjoyable vacation possible.
Costa Rica offers a range of accommodations, including many in the rainforest, mountains and alongside volcanoes.
There is no shortage of outdoor and lodging experiences for every type of traveller and every comfort level.
What are the entry requirements for Canadian visitors? Do they require a COVID-19 test? What are the specific health and hygiene measures in place that visitors need to know about?
As of Oct. 26, travellers from all international countries are no longer required to present a negative RT-PCR test to enter Costa Rica.
They must meet visa requirements, complete the online Health Pass, hold a travel insurance policy that meets Costa Rica’s COVID-19 insurance provider requirements, and follow local social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines. Travellers can learn more about Costa Rica’s entry requirements at https://www.visitcostarica.com/en/costa-rica/planning-your-trip/entry-requirements.
At this time, travellers can expect to see the following measures in destination:
- Mandatory mask-wearing in public spaces, grocery stores, drugstores, retail stores, hospitals and on public transportation
- Hotels and lodging facilities open to the public at 100% capacity: public spaces in hotels and lodging facilities (restaurants, pools, and gyms) open at 50% capacity
- Restaurants, cafés, food courts and stalls, gyms, and swimming schools open at 50% capacity
- Select national parks open at 50% capacity and offering online ticketing
- All beaches open with social distancing and restricted schedules: Monday through Friday between the hours of 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 5 a.m. and 9 p.m.
- Museums and art academies (offering interactive experiences with no direct contact) can resume operations from Monday through Friday between the hours of 5 a.m. and 10 p.m., without exceeding 50% of their capacity. Tickets must be pre-purchased
- Tourism transportation services can operate, following the sanitary measures established by the country’s Public Transportation Council
Is there a health and safety program in place for hotels and tour operators? Can you provide some details of how that program works and where agents and operators can get additional information on it?
The Costa Rican Tourism Institute with the support of the private sector and the Ministry of Health, designed a set of 16 protocols that address the safety and security processes of tourism businesses and ensure the safety of tourists, including hotels (English) and tour operators (Spanish).
The 16 protocols provide recommendations for sanitation, PPE, check-in and check-out, and more, and have been recognized internationally by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) as meeting their standardized global protocols for safe consumer travel.
What about the Canadian market? How is Costa Rica marketing itself to agents and operators in Canada? What kind of Canadian traveller is Costa Rica targeting?
The Costa Rican Tourism Institute has developed a Costa Rica Specialist Programme specifically for Canadian travel agents, which is set to launch this month.
This specialist program will provide agents with a deep dive on the destination and the right tools needed to sell it to their clients.
The Costa Rican Tourism Institute is also distributing monthly newsletters to keep travel agents updated on the country’s health and safety protocols, as well as other destination happenings.
Costa Rica’s unique landscapes allow for diverse experiences for every type of traveler, however, we seek to attract travellers who first and foremost, respect the country’s nature and wildlife, which we have worked so hard to preserve; and secondly, travellers who are interested in learning about our culture. These two elements distinguish us from other Latin American countries and will ensure that our local communities and biodiversity continue to thrive.
Costa Rica has been a leader in developing sustainable tourism. Can you talk about the destination’s sustainable tourism products and programs and its efforts in this area?
Costa Rica is an ideal sustainable travel option for those seeking to reduce their carbon footprint.
Our eco-lodges, wildlife rescue centers and sanctuaries, offer an enriching and educational experience unlike any other.
The Costa Rican Tourism Institute has awarded over 400 tourism organizations the Certification of Sustainable Tourism (CST), which recognizes companies for sustainable management of business, social, cultural, and environmental activities. The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) recently recognized our CST program for its alignment with the universal criteria for sustainable management, social and economic benefits for local communities, the preservation of cultural heritage, and the reduction of pollution.
Travellers can view certified sustainable tourism suppliers at https://www.visitcostarica.com/en/costa-rica/sustainability.
What is your message to Canadian travel agents and tour operators?
I am confident that Costa Rica can continue to provide Canadians with once-in-a-lifetime experiences throughout the pandemic that are physically distant and safe. Thanks to our Canadian airline partners who have reactivated direct flight routes from our capital city of San José and regional airport in Liberia to major Canadian cities, such as Montreal and Toronto, travel is possible and safe.
As our tourism campaign conveys, Life’s Essentials are found here. Costa Rica is a destination that inspires one to reconnect with nature, oneself and one’s community to discover what is most essential in life.