Costa Rica: a central attraction

posted on 29th September 2022
Costa Rica: a central attraction

Hermes Navarro del Valle from the Institute of Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) spoke to ARGS on the growth and aims for this Central American country over the next 10 years at Air Service World Congress.
Valle, the chief of tourism investment and airline relations for the ICT, hailed Costa Rica as a relaxation and wellness destination, explaining that the country wants to promote recharging individuals, rather than phones, in a post-pandemic technology-centric world. By travelling to Costa Rica tourists can reconnect with themselves, family, nature and animals. “After the pandemic this is what we all need,” said Valle.
Costa Rica has seemed to crack the code for recovery for tourism since the pandemic, with its general market returning with a 90% load factor – partly due to the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions. Costa Rica’s government removed PCR test requirements to enter the country, believing it was a misleading measure of Covid-19 safety and preferring to favour other safety measures like social distancing, sanitising and ventilation. The proportion of customers flying back to the US after testing positive on a pre-return flight PCR test was as low a 0.17%.
The US market returned first, with airlines such as Alaska Airlines, Spirit and later Frontier recording strong traffic, especially from Texas, California, Nevada and Florida. Canadian airlines such as Air Canada, WestJet, and Air Transat bounced back with services from Toronto.
The recovery on European routes has been the strongest, however; volumes of travellers from the UK came back slowly but surely, with numbers for April up 15% since 2019, and May up 12.6% since 2019. The German market was 18.5% higher in May compared to 2019. The Swiss market also returned swiftly fuelled by the Swiss government’s decision to relax Covid-19 restrictions relatively early compared to other markets, and its commitments not to reinstate them once they had been lifted.
Valle’s 10-year plans set out ambitious growth for the ICT. His main targets are for more long-haul flights to destinations in Europe, such as the Netherlands, France and the UK. Within the next five years he aims to crack into the Brazilian market, fortify Italian connections and resurrect the Israeli market, which despite natural increases in the past year, remain a priority for further growth. Valle also wants to see flights to the Middle East by 2032, via a connection in Barcelona, Madrid, or Rome. However, he anticipates that it will be a challenge to make these routes economically feasible.
As the head of tourism for the ICT, Valle is also thinking long term about the safety and popularity of Costa Rica as the economic effects of the pandemic wear off and traffic fully returns. Matters under consideration include how to handle customers without Covid-19 vaccinations – a logistical and healthcare challenge for the country.