TORONTO — Industry experts are calling for a quick rebound for travel, with pent-up demand indicating that Canadians are eager to pack their bags and head abroad once more. But once travel restrictions lift and borders reopen, where will they head to first?
Costa Rica, for one.
According to David Green, VP Commercial at G Adventures, the Central American nation has done a stellar job at communicating to travellers on how to visit the destination, recognizing how important tourism is to its economy. Currently, travellers of all nationalities can enter and there is no need to provide a negative COVID-19 test or quarantine upon arrival. Travellers must, however, show proof of a travel insurance policy that includes coronavirus coverage (minimum of US$50,000 medical expenses and $2,000 extended lodging), complete a digital health pass 48 hours before travel, and follow local guidelines for physical distancing and mask wearing.
These measures, coupled with the fact that the country isn’t densely populated and has shown “solid management of the crisis,” are reasons why travellers consider Costa Rica a safe country to travel to, says Green. And for Canadians specifically, its close proximity to Canada is an added bonus.
“Costa Rica has handled the pandemic well overall and has been successful in re-introducing tourism due to the protocols it has implemented, which are strictly followed. Little by little, the country has been able to adapt to the new reality and follow through with the plan of reopening to tourism,” says Green.
“Currently, the country is running and operating very similar to the way it was pre-pandemic but with protocols in place at tourist touchpoints. Capacity has been reduced, social distancing is being maintained whenever possible and when that is not possible, masks are required. These measures have resulted in Costa Rica’s success in controlling the spread of the pandemic,” he adds.
To date, Costa Rica has reported over 213,000 cases of COVID-19, with over 191,000 cases recovered. Lorenzo Campos, Account Director of Visit Costa Rica, tells Travelweek that the country quickly and efficiently implemented safety protocols set out by the Ministry of Health and the Tourism Board, and that every operator dealing with tourists received specific guidance on how to operate safely.
“Tourism businesses have rolled out intense training programs for staff and are regularly refreshing this knowledge. As such, Costa Rica was one of the first destinations to get the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) Safe Travels stamp,” says Campos.
With a tourism industry that’s ready to welcome back travellers, G Adventures wasted no time operating tours to Costa Rica; in fact, it has run more than 20 trips to the destination since September 2020. It currently has a full program of 20 tour options in Costa Rica available to book across a variety of travel styles, including National Geographic Journeys with G Adventures, 18-to-Thirtysomethings, Active, Family and Wellness. All tours are operating with the company’s Travel with Confidence policy in place, featuring additional health and safety requirements that include physical distancing and PPE.
“Costa Rica is a destination we’ve successfully managed to run tours during the current pandemic,” says Green. “Our research tells us that 25% of travellers are keen to take an Active tour when they can get back out in the world, with 41% of people wanting to head out in nature, presumably as an antidote to lockdown fatigue. This means Costa Rica is a perfect choice.”
Collette is also jumping at the chance to return to Costa Rica, with tours currently scheduled to depart at the end of April. Although these initial tours are for U.S. guests only, the fact that tours are running at all bodes well for Canadians when they are able to travel again.
“We’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with countries like Costa Rica opening up again,” says Brett Walker, General Manager of Collette. “Costa Rica has clear guidelines and entry requirements and Collette will be conforming to them all. Coupled with Collette’s own ‘Travelling Well’ guidelines, we believe this will be the high watermark of safety precautions.”
With tourism making up 8.2% of its total GDP, Costa Rica is eager to welcome back tourists. In 2019, it reported over 3.1 million tourist arrivals in 2019, with just over 234,000 from Canada. Prior to the pandemic, the country was on track to see an increase on those numbers in 2020.
To accommodate visitors, including Canadians, who require a COVID-19 test prior to their return to their home country, Campos says that Costa Rica has enlisted the help of many national laboratories to analyze test results. The cost of a test is approximately Cdn$125 per person and results are achieved within 48 hours. Select hotels and resorts are also offering guests on-the-ground support when obtaining a COVID-19 test for added convenience.
“Canadian travellers are so important to Costa Rica and the Costa Rica Tourism Board has defined specific activities to reach strategic markets like Canada to help speed up the recovery,” says Campos. “Since so much of the country’s tourism offerings and accommodations are found in nature, it’s the ideal destination for an enjoyable, physically-distanced vacation post-Covid. Whether travellers choose to stay in the rainforest, mountains or beach, there is no shortage of outdoor experiences for every comfort level.”
For the latest information on Costa Rica’s entry requirements, click here.