The Costa Rica Tourism Board (ICT) on Monday met with reporters to share its forecasts for 2021. The conclusion: The only thing that’s certain right now is the amount of uncertainty.
The ICT’s models indicate Costa Rica could receive anywhere between 400,000 and 1.6 million tourists in 2021. In the most optimistic scenario, the number of 2021 visitors would represent a 50% decrease compared to pre-pandemic 2019.
Here are other interesting takeaways shared by the ICT:
While Costa Rica’s GDP shrank 4.5% in 2020, the impact on the hotel & restaurant sector was over 40%. “The worst moment in our history,” said the Tourism Minister, Gustavo Segura.
The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) says global international arrivals dropped 72% due to the pandemic, with 81% fewer flight reservations made.
The ICT believes a gradual tourism recovery will begin in 2021, though ever-changing travel restrictions have made it difficult to quantify with any certainty.
The number of visitors to Costa Rica in 2020 dropped to levels not seen since 1998. See the chart below for more.
Tourists who traveled by the end of 2020 tended to be younger people seeking outdoors/nature experiences. Travel uncertainty led to vacations booked at the last minute for destinations that were closer to home.
Ever-changing restrictions, economic concerns and the lack of virus containment are among the biggest factors preventing tourism growth.
The below ICT graph shows the number of tourists who have visited Costa Rica annually since 1990. The highlighted dips correspond to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks (2001), the SARS outbreak (2003), the global economic crisis (2009), and the coronavirus (2020):
A continuous growth rate model shows pre-Covid tourism expectations (blue), expectations when factoring in Covid (red), and actual tourism numbers (green):
The Tourism Board cautioned that its models must be taken in context, since they depend so largely on factors outside of Costa Rica’s control. The ICT will update its forecasts every three months.
“It’s important that entrepreneurs, collaborators and travelers remember that throughout this recovery process, it is key to continue promoting the application of health protocols,” the Tourism Board said. “In particular, the measures on hand-washing, physical distancing, bubble travel and wearing a mask.”
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