In a significant upturn, Costa Rica welcomed over 1.84 million tourists from January to September 2023, indicating a robust recovery of the tourism sector. This 16.4% increase compared to the previous year has set the stage for the country to potentially surpass historical tourism figures by the end of the year.
Air Travel Leads the Recovery
The most notable rebound has been in air travel, surpassing pre-pandemic levels. By September 2023, Costa Rica recorded 1,848,208 air arrivals, marginally higher than the 1,836,023 in 2019, as reported by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT). This surge is primarily driven by tourists from the United States and Canada, accounting for 70% of the air travel influx. The Juan Santamaría International Airport and the Daniel Oduber Airport in Guanacaste are the primary gateways for these visitors.
Clarifications from the Tourism Minister
William Rodríguez, the Minister of Tourism, initially claimed that Costa Rica had regained its 2019 tourism numbers. However, he later clarified that this statement specifically referred to air travel statistics. Rodríguez emphasized that air travel represents 90% of total tourism income, highlighting its critical role in the nation’s tourism recovery efforts.
Overall Tourism Growth
Despite the impressive increase in air travel, the total number of tourists entering Costa Rica through all modes of entry (air, sea, and land) remains slightly below pre-pandemic levels. However, the current trend points towards a continued rise in tourist arrivals, bolstering the nation’s economic resurgence.
Costa Rica’s tourism sector is experiencing a significant upswing, primarily driven by a surge in air travel. With the majority of visitors coming from North America, the focus is on maintaining and expanding air connectivity to sustain this growth. The recovery trajectory indicates a promising future for Costa Rica’s tourism, as it aims to exceed its pre-pandemic success and set new records in 2023.