TORONTO — Costa Rica loves its Canadians visitors, and can’t wait to welcome even more of them as flights to the country ramp back up in early 2021.
Air Canada has already restarted flights to Liberia, and so has WestJet. Air Canada will add more capacity later this month. Plus both Sunwing and Transat are expected to resume their Liberia flights in February, said Gustavo Segura Sancho, Costa Rica’s Tourism Minister during yesterday’s virtual press conference hosted by the Costa Rica Tourism Board.
Segura noted that tourism is critical for Costa Rica’s economy. “We need you,” he said with a smile at the end of yesterday’s online event. “We need all the Canadians who can come here.”
Segura took office in July 2020, at the height of the pandemic, with three goals in mind: to reopen safely; to promote economic recovery; and to maintain Costa Rica’s reputation as a leading travel destination in Latin America.
“WE BOUGHT OURSELVES SOME TIME”
Costa Rica was able to delay the community transmission phase of the COVID-19 virus spread by close to five months after the pandemic shut down borders around the world. “We bought ourselves some time” with those five months, said Segura, allowing Costa Rica to strengthen its public health system and safety protocols while travel was all but halted around the world.
After closing its border on March 18, Costa Rica began to reopen in June. On August 1 “we made the decision to be the first country in Latin America to reopen borders to travellers”, first to Canadians and Europeans, and then to more countries, he said.
“We’re very happy to welcome travellers back,” said Segura. “For many years we have focused on attracting the right kind of travellers. That’s why we love our Canadian travellers. They embrace Costa Rica’s ‘Pura Vida’.”
So-called ‘digital nomads’, eg. international travellers who can work from anywhere, are especially welcome, he added.
Getting lift is critical, and it’s coming back. Pre-pandemic, 27 airlines flew to Costa Rica. Now, 20 have either returned or have plans to return.
“The airline community is trusting the destination as well,” said Segura.
The hotels are ready too. Also speaking at yesterday’s event, Javier Pacheco, President of the Costa Rican Chamber of Hotels, talked about the numerous health and safety measures in place in Costa Rica’s hotels and resorts, from temperature checks to staff protocols (masks 100% of the time for staff, for starters) to the room cleaning process. “Rooms are fully sanitized, and once they’re sanitized and cleaned, no one else goes into the room until the guest gets there,” said Pacheco.
ROAD TO RECOVERY
A slide entitled ‘Road to Recovery’ shows the timeline of Costa Rica’s return, going from strength to strength.
The numbers at the bottom of the graphic show the number of international travellers arriving in Costa Rica, increasing slowly but surely month to month. In September it was 1,636. Then 3,371 in October, 9,888 in November and so far 36,044 in December.
The numbers are small still but the good news is, out of those 50,000 visitors, “zero contracted the virus,” says Segura.
The restart of tourism in Costa Rica means jobs and economic recovery. “People in Costa Rica are taking the protocols very seriously,” he said.
These early months are showing signs of hope, but the numbers aren’t yet high enough to sustain the industry. But Segura says he sees 2021 as offering a slow and steady recovery. “Our message is, if you want to travel to a place that’s safe, then that’s Costa Rica,” he said.
“We’re here, and we’re strong.”
A NEW COSTA RICA CONTEST
To promote visitation to Costa Rica, the tourism board has launched a new campaign aimed to highlight the work and dedication of essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Visit Costa Rica is rewarding 15 people with trips for two to Costa Rica in 2021. The tourism board is calling on travellers to nominate a person that has made a meaningful difference in their lives through the ‘Who Is Essential to You’ campaign and trip giveaway.
Nominations from all across North America will be accepted here for a chance to win a seven-day trip for two to Costa Rica in 2021. Participants are encouraged to share their stories.
Submissions close on Jan. 31, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. EST, after which 15 winners will be announced. The contest is open to residents of Canada (excluding residents of Quebec) and the U.S. Each trip includes roundtrip flights, accommodations, and select meals and experiences. For more information, see contest terms and conditions here.