CRC Daily: U.S. travel policy another blow to Costa Rica

New Executive Order could reduce tourism to Costa Rica in 2021.

The United States is taking a more aggressive national approach to combat the coronavirus pandemic, and new policies will have an immediate impact on Costa Rica.

As we first reported earlier this month, the United States will require all air passengers to test negative for the coronavirus before their flight into the country. This takes effect on January 26.

Now there’s more: President Joe Biden has signed an Executive Order asking federal agencies to implement a quarantine requirement for international travelers upon their return to the U.S.

There are few details so far regarding the self-quarantine. Per the Executive Order, the U.S. will “promptly” develop a plan “with respect to CDC-recommended periods of self-quarantine or self-isolation after a flight to the United States from a foreign country.”

We expect the U.S. will begin requiring that international travelers quarantine for 7 to 10 days after returning. This isn’t official yet, but that’s the length of time currently recommended by the CDC, and the Executive Order says travelers should be “required to comply” with the CDC recommendations.

Unfortunately, this policy would have negative economic impacts on Costa Rica, which relies heavily on U.S. tourism.

Tourism is one of Costa Rica’s main economic drivers, generating 8.2% of GDP and supporting 600,000 jobs. The United States is by far the biggest contributor to this sector.

Starting soon, all U.S. tourists will have the following deterrents to a Costa Rica vacation:

  • Costa Rica requires that visitors purchase medical insurance covering Covid-19 during their trip. This constitutes a few extra dollars for each person, each day.

  • The United States will require that travelers test negative before flying back. A test at a private lab in Costa Rica costs about $100 per person.

  • The United States will require that travelers quarantine after returning home. This makes a trip more difficult for workers with fewer vacation days (or who cannot work remotely during their quarantine).

Costa Rica has made it easier for tourists to get tested, but the upcoming U.S. quarantine requirements are entirely out of their control. On the other hand, if these policies help the world get a better handle on the pandemic, that could be beneficial in the medium-term.

Canada, England and Spain are among the other countries that require a negative coronavirus test to enter. Canada also mandates that travelers quarantine for 14 days.

As part of its economic reactivation effort, Costa Rica has few entry requirements. The Tourism Board has been promoting Costa Rica as a safe destination during the pandemic and says no visitors have been hospitalized with Covid-19 during their vacation here.

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