TORONTO — Count Costa Rica among the destinations already back on track with 2019 visitor numbers from the Canadian market.
Considering that Canada only really started to reopen for outbound tourism back in the spring, it’s an incredible accomplishment.
Canada enjoys special status when it comes to Costa Rica’s top inbound markets, sitting just one spot behind the U.S. The visitor levels from Canada more than triple any nearest European market.
And the very best part? William Rodriguez, Costa Rica’s Minister of Tourism, says that the “overwhelming majority” of trips to Costa Rica booked from Canada are through tour operators.
And a considerable number of those tour op bookings come via travel agents.
Minister Rodriguez, in Toronto this week as a guest of VoX International – which represents the Costa Rican Tourism Board here in Canada – says he’s “very happy with the level of support we get from Canadian travel agents.”
TRAVEL AGENT FAMS
Costa Rica reopened to tourism just a few months after the start of the pandemic – the country opened its borders on Aug. 30, 2020 – and soon international travellers were trickling back in, albeit predominantly U.S. travellers for a little while.
By late 2021 Costa Rica had sufficient confidence in the return of the Canadian market that it hosted a fam for Canadian travel agents who had completed the Costa Rica Specialist Program, hosted by Travelweek Group’s Learning Centre and available in both English and French. Another fam with more Costa Rica Specialists is taking place this week.
The trade’s contact at VoX for more information on all things Costa Rica is Lorenzo Campos (firstname.lastname@example.org)
AIR LIFT, CRUISE LINES & NEW LUXURY HOTELS
Minister Rodriguez says Costa Rica gets good lift from Canada: “We are well covered,” he says. Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and Transat all offer flights to Costa Rica.
Cruise lines are lining up to secure port calls at the destination too, with twice the number of ships calling at Costa Rica for the 2022/23 season as in 2019/20.
And check out the hotel news: Ritz-Carlton, Six Senses, Waldorf Astoria and One&Only are all building properties in Costa Rica, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, on the Pacific coast.
Costa Rica has always attracted a wide range of travellers, from families to couples to groups of friends. The luxury segment has always been present too, but these four new high-end resort brand developments should put the destination front and centre with luxury travellers. “There is a niche, there is growing demand,” says Minister Rodriguez.
Costa Rica was a pioneer in promoting eco-travel and sustainable tourism, and more than a few competing destinations work hard to emulate Costa Rica’s success in these campaigns, none come close to offering the complete package. Maybe that’s because Costa Rica walks the walk. Costa Rica boasts 1,228 kilometres of coastline and comprises 5% of the world’s biodiversity. And between its national parks, reserves and wildlife refuges, close to 30% of the country is protected.
Says Minister Rodriguez: “I think we are well-known as leaders in environmental tourism. As it says on our website, ‘Sustainability is not a practice in Costa Rica, it’s a way of life.”
He adds that research shows that the vast majority of visitors – 92% – say they feel like a better person after their trip to Costa Rica. The country’s focus on nature, biodiversity and protecting the planet no doubt have a lot to do with that high number. But it’s the locals, too, who add to the experience, he says. Costa Rica is looking to develop the cultural side of its product in its messaging to travellers, from culinary riches to the sense of community with Costa Rica’s residents.
Costa Rica is also promoting its Digital Nomads offering to Canadians. Would-be temporary residents looking to live and work remotely in Costa Rica can apply online for a three-month visa, which can be extended for one year, and then extended again for an additional year, if desired. More details can be found here.