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Tourism Statistics

According to Costa Rica’s National Institute for Tourism (ICT), Costa Rica is in demand and is ranked 56th in the world for tourist arrivals. In 2008 alone Costa Rica received just over 2 million tourists which generated just over USD $2.14 billion in revenue.

Costa Rica’s geographic position as a bridge between North and South America allows it to possess coasts in the Atlantic & Pacific Oceans, variable topography, diverse soil combinations, and climatic variations. Therefore, Costa Rica is an eco-tourists paradise.  Costa Rica is considered one of the world’s most bio-diverse regions in the world.  According to Costa Rica’s National Institute of Biodiversity, Costa Rica is home to over 4% of the world’s biodiversity.  Costa Rica has more species of butterflies than the whole continent of Africa does. Over 25% of Costa Rica’s national territory is dedicated to conservation with over 20 national parks, 8 biological reserves, animal refuges, and several protected areas.

In 2007, the number of travel agencies jumped to 330, up from 295 in 2003.[1] Tourist activities include boating, sport fishing, golf, tennis, spas, shopping, canopy/zipline tours, surfing, wind surfing, kayaking, snorkeling, diving, horseback riding, ATVs, hiking to volcanoes, rainforests, hot springs, beaches, & waterfalls, and wildlife observing (whales, dolphins, other mammals, sea turtles, exotic birds, crocodiles, other reptiles, butterflies etc.)  In 2007, over 70% of those who entered Costa Rica stated their purpose of travel as vacation.

Tourism overall in Central America has increased over 18% in the last 4 years, mainly due to increases in tourism to Costa Rica and Panama.[3] According to ICT, for 2007 Costa Rica experienced a 14.8% increase with respect to the year 2006. Some factors that contributed to this increase include: additional routes for more international flight arrivals, larger size of planes arriving to Costa Rica, stronger international marketing and publicity strategies, cooperation between ICT and the airlines, increased number of tour operators,  and new contracts with public relations campaigns in the US & Canada.[4]

Based on studies done in international airports of Costa Rica, the following information was obtained through direct interviews regarding the profile of Non- Residents visiting Costa Rica[5]:

-          43% were over the age of 45.

-          82% were highly education and had obtained at least a university degree or post graduate degree.

-           54% resided in the US, 18% in Europe, 12% in Latin America, and 5.6% from Canada.

-          From the US population 21% were from Florida, 16% from California, 8% from Texas,  8% from Colorado and the rest from other States.

-          Those from Canada were 34% from Ontario, 20% from British Colombia, 17% from Quebec, and 12% from Alberta.

-          For 59% it was their first visit to Costa Rica, for the remaining 41% they had visited before with an average of 8.5 visits.

-          70% stated their reason for visiting as vacation, break, or pleasure.

-          16% stated their visit as business or professional motivation.

-          10% stated their visit to visit friends and/or family.

-          2% stated their visit for educational purposes.

-          The principal activities (in which they were allowed to select more than one category) were 57.2% for sun/beach,  45.5% for hiking/exploring,  43.1% for volcanoes/hot springs, 39.2% for viewing flora & fauna, 30% for shopping, and 30.1% for bird watching or other activities.

Table No. 1

Table No. 1 demonstrates the numbers of tourists who have entered into the country from 1995 to 2005 in the thousands. As shown, each year the numbers tend to increase little by little. Also, many first time visitors end up returning to Costa Rica in later years to revisit and explore new areas which has also lead to an increase in tourist numbers.

ICT also claims that tourism contributed to 7 percent of Costa Rica’s GDP and generates around 13 percent of direct and indirect employment.  The tourism industry has seen a steady increase, growing at a rate of about 8 percent per year over the last 10 years.

Table No. 2

Table No. 2 demonstrates a steady increased in income for tourism for the years 1995 to 2005.

Table No. 3

Table No. 3 is somewhat of a continuation of Table No. 2 and demonstrates how the trend in number of tourists has continued to increase, earnings from tourism continues to steadily increase, and that tourism is a key component of the Costa Rican economy making up a large percentage of its GDP along with exports.

Year

Tourists

Earned by

Relationship

% of GDP

 

 

 

(thousands of people)

Tourism
(millons of dollars)

Tourism/ exports

 

 

 

2003

1.237,95

1.199,40

19,70

2004

1.452,93

1.357,40

21,50

2005

1.679,05

1.569,90

22,30

2006

1.725,26

1.629,30

19,90

2007

1.979,79

1.894,70

20,30

2008

2.089,17

2.144,20

22,60

Average

1.694,02

1.632,48

21,05

 

 

 

 

Source: MIDEPLAN based on data from ICT 2009.

Table No. 4

Table No. 4 demonstrated the amount of Investment in Tourism by each tourist sector from 2004 to 2008 in billons of Colones.

Sector

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Hotels

163,0

593,3

639,9

1264,0

3490,7

Food & Entertainment

45,2

79,9

35,0

63,1

75,8

Others

37,8

12,9

116,9

11,4

101,1

Investment in Colones

246,0

686,2

791,8

1338,5

3667,6

Source: MIDEPLAN based on data from ICT 2009.

Table No. 5

Table No. 5 demonstrates in relation to the nonresident tourists from 1996 to 2005. The tendency that has been maintained along the years is characterized for the growing visit fundamentally of European and American tourists.

Table No. 6

Table No. 6 demonstrates the newest data on international tourist arrivals from 2003 to 2008 by region. This continues to prove that North Americans and Europeans are the principal visitors to Costa Rica.

Region

Number of Tourists

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

North America

611.520,00

754.982,00

895.370,00

875.959,00

953.812,00

929.502,00

 

 

 

 

 

 

Central America

312.936,00

359.979,00

415.464,00

478.147,00

592.840,00

648.586,00

 

 

 

 

 

 

South America

83.736,00

87.127,00

88.394,00

90.906,00

108.770,00

114.111,00

 

 

 

 

 

 

Europe

192.099,00

208.222,00

232.889,00

234.681,00

271.631,00

289.379,00

 

 

 

 

 

 

Others

37.657,00

42.616,00

46.934,00

45.568,00

52.736,00

107.596,00

Total

1.237.948,00

1.452.926,00

1.679.051,00

1.725.261,00

1.979.789,00

2.089.174,00

SOURCE: MIDEPLAN based on data from ICT 2008.

Table No. 7

Table No. 7 demonstrates the busiest months trafficked by the principal tourist group to Costa Rica from 1996 to 2005. Overall, the largest and most frequent group to visit Costa Rica is from the United States, where January, February, March, June, July, November, and December are the most visited months.

Table No. 8

Table No. 8 demonstrates the busiest months trafficked from 1996 to 2005 by the second largest tourist group to Costa Rica, where January, February, March, July, August, November and December are the most visited months.

American and European groups tend to visit mainly during major holiday breaks such as spring break, fall break and Christmas break.  These times consequently occur during the summer months in Costa Rica, also known as dry season from November to April.  These are the times when accommodation, transportation,  rentals, food, entertainment,  and activities are at an all time high; hence why this season is called high season. There is also a peak season which is Christmas break through New Years and Holy Week known in Costa Rica as Semana Santa. These peak weeks are the most expensive in the country because external tourists are competing with national tourists who are also on vacation. During peak weeks in Costa Rica accommodations and car rentals can be very difficult to acquire.

Chart No. 1

Chart No. 1 depicts the number of tourists by the thousands broken down into trimesters.

Source: Boletin Estadisticas Turisticas de Centroamerica (2007), page 16.

Table No. 9

Table No. 9 demonstrates that in 2005, the vast majorities of tourists enter by air and note the main port of entry is Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose. Although Liberia has opened up Daniel Oduber International Airport  (located 6 hours North of San Jose by car), the trend has continued that Juan Santamaria continues to be the main port of entry for tourists.

The World Tourism Organization classifies each visitor into three separate categories:

1) A Visitor:  who relocates temporarily to a distinct or habitual place for duration of less than 12 months with the principal purpose of the trip not being to do paid activities.

2) An Excursionist: who passes through one day, this would include cruise ship passengers.

3) A Tourist: is someone that lodges at least one night in the country being visited.

Costa Rica has the highest numbers in the categories of tourists and visitors when compared directly to other countries in Central America for 2006 and 2007 as shown in Table No. 10 and No. 11 below:  (For the following graphics CA is Central America, BZ is Belize, CR is Costa Rica, ES is El Salvador, GU is Guatemala, HO is Honduras, NI is Nicaragua, and PA is Panama.)

Table No. 10

(In thousands of people)

Table No. 10 shows that in 2006 Costa Rica had: 25% of Tourists to Central America, 16% of Excursionists to Central America, and 23% of Visitors to Central America.

2006

CA

BZ

CR

ES

GU

HO

NI

PA

Tourists

6,896.7

247.3

1,725.3

1,138.4

1,454.6

738.7

749.2

843.2

Excursionists

2,181.8

655.9

345.6

222.4

47.5

397.7

141.7

371.0

Visitors

9,041.6

903.3

2,070.9

1,360.8

1,502.1

1,136.4

890.9

1,215.1

Source: Boletin Estadisticas Turisticas de Centroamerica (2007), page 9.

Table No. 11

(In thousands of people)

Table No. 11 shows that in 2007 Costa Rica had: 26% of Tourists to Central America, 13% of Excursionists to Central America, and 23% of Visitors to Central America.

2007

CA

BZ

CR

ES

GU

HO

NI

PA

Tourists

7,752.8

251.6

1,979.8

1,338.5

1,448.5

831.4

800.0

1,103.0

Excursionists

2,525.1

624.1

321.8

381.3

179.0

505.2

178.3

325.4

Visitors

10,267.9

875.7

2,301.6

1,719.8

1,627.5

1,336.6

978.3

1,428.4

Source: Boletin Estadisticas Turisticas de Centroamerica (2007), page 9.

 


[1] Boletin Estadisticas Turisticas de Centroamerica (2007), page 8.

[2] Boletin Estadisticas Turisticas de Centroamerica (2007), page 14.

[3] Boletin Estadisticas Turisticas de Centroamerica (2007), page 10.

[4] Boletin Estadisticas Turisticas de Centroamerica (2007), page 22.

[5] Boletin Estadisticas Turisticas de Centroamerica (2007), page 23.

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