Tourism in Costa Rica

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Poas Volcano Crater is one of Costa Rica's main tourist attractions. Poas crater.jpg
Poás Volcano Crater is one of Costa Rica's main tourist attractions.
Cocos Island is a prime ecotourism destination. A World Heritage Site, ranked among the top 77 nominees for the world's New 7 Wonders of Nature. Isla del Coco-chatham beach.jpg
Cocos Island is a prime ecotourism destination. A World Heritage Site, ranked among the top 77 nominees for the world's New 7 Wonders of Nature.

Tourism in Costa Rica is one of the fastest growing economic sectors of the country [2] and by 1995 became the largest foreign exchange earner. [3] [4] Since 1999, tourism earns more foreign exchange than bananas, pineapples and coffee exports combined. [5] The tourism boom began in 1987, [3] with the number of visitors up from 329,000 in 1988, through 1.03 million in 1999, over 2 million in 2008, to a historical record of 2.66 million foreign visitors in 2015. [6] [7] In 2012, tourism contributed with 12.5% of the country's GDP and it was responsible for 11.7% of direct and indirect employment. [8] In 2009, tourism attracted 17% of foreign direct investment inflows, and 13% in average between 2000 and 2009. [9] In 2010, the tourism industry was responsible for 21.2% of foreign exchange generated by all exports. [10] According to a 2007 report by ECLAC, tourism contributed to a reduction in poverty of 3% in the country. [9]

A foreign direct investment (FDI) is an investment in the form of a controlling ownership in a business in one country by an entity based in another country. It is thus distinguished from a foreign portfolio investment by a notion of direct control.

United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean organization

The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, known as ECLAC, UNECLAC or in Spanish and Portuguese CEPAL, is a United Nations regional commission to encourage economic cooperation. ECLAC includes 46 member States, and 13 associate members which are various non-independent territories, associated island countries and a commonwealth in the Caribbean. ECLAC publishes statistics covering the countries of the region and makes cooperative agreements with nonprofit institutions. ECLAC's headquarters is in Santiago, Chile.

Contents

Since the late 1980s, Costa Rica became a popular nature travel destination, and its main competitive advantage is its well-established system of national parks and protected areas, [11] covering around 23.4% of the country's land area, [12] the largest in the world as a percentage of the country's territory, [13] [14] and home to a rich variety of flora and fauna, in a country that has only 0.03% of the world's landmass, but that is estimated to contain 5% of the world's biodiversity. [15] [16] The country also has plenty of beaches, both in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, within short travel distances, and also several volcanoes that can be visited with safety. By the early 1990s, Costa Rica became known as the poster child of ecotourism, [16] with tourist arrivals reaching an average annual growth rate of 14% between 1986 and 1994. [3] [17]

Costa Rica Country in Central America

Costa Rica, officially the Republic of Costa Rica, is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the northeast, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, and Ecuador to the south of Cocos Island. It has a population of around 5 million in a land area of 51,060 square kilometers. An estimated 333,980 people live in the capital and largest city, San José with around 2 million people in the surrounding metropolitan area.

Protected area location which receives protection because of its recognised natural, ecological or cultural landscape values

Protected areas or conservation areas are locations which receive protection because of their recognized natural, ecological or cultural values. There are several kinds of protected areas, which vary by level of protection depending on the enabling laws of each country or the regulations of the international organizations involved.

Flora inventory of plant species in a given region

Flora is the plant life occurring in a particular region or time, generally the naturally occurring or indigenous—native plant life. The corresponding term for animal life is fauna. Flora, fauna and other forms of life such as fungi are collectively referred to as biota. Sometimes bacteria and fungi are also referred to as flora, as in the terms gut flora or skin flora.

According to the Costa Rican Tourism Board, 47% of international tourists visiting the country in 2009 engaged in activities related to ecotourism, which includes trekking, flora, fauna, and bird watching, and visits to rural communities. However, most visitors look for adventure activities. [18] Costa Rica was included by Ethical Traveler magazine in the 2011 and the 2012 list of The Developing World's 10 Best Ethical Destinations. [19] [20]

The Costa Rican Tourism Board is the government agency responsible for promoting sustainable tourism in Costa Rica. Originally the agency was created by decree in 1931 as the National Tourism Board, and by a law approved on August 9 of 1955 the agency became the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT).

Backpacking (wilderness) outdoor recreation of carrying gear on ones back, while hiking for more than a day. It is often but not always an extended journey, and may or may not involve camping outdoors

Backpacking is the outdoor recreation of carrying gear on one's back, while hiking for more than a day. It is often but not always an extended journey, and may or may not involve camping outdoors. In North America tenting is common, where simple shelters and mountain huts widely found in Europe are rare. In New Zealand, tramping is the term applied though overnight huts are frequently used. Hill walking is an equivalent in Britain, though backpackers make use of all kinds of accommodation, in addition to camping. Backpackers use simple huts in South Africa. Similar terms used in other countries are trekking and bushwalking.

Rural tourism focuses on actively participating in a rural lifestyle. It can be a variant of ecotourism. Many villages can facilitate tourism because many villagers are hospitable and eager to welcome visitors. Agriculture is becoming highly mechanized and therefore, requires less manual labor. This trend is causing economic pressure on some villages, which in turn causes young people to move to urban areas. There is however, a segment of the urban population that is interested in visiting the rural areas and understanding the lifestyle.

Description and key statistics


International tourist arrivals (millions)
1988–2015
Tourism in Costa Rica

Costa Rica stands as the most visited nation in the Central American region, with 2.3 million foreign visitors in 2012, capturing a market share of 26.4% of all visitors to the region. [21] In 2012, Panama was ranked second in the region with 1.6 million, followed by Guatemala with 1.3 million visitors. [21]

The number of tourists visiting Costa Rica surpassed the 2 million milestone in 2008, and tourist-related income reached US$2.1 billion that year. [22] As a result of the Great Recession, international arrivals began falling since August 2008, as the number of U.S. citizens visiting the country shrank, and this market segment represented 54% of all foreign tourists visiting Costa Rica. [23]

Great Recession Early 21st-century global economic decline

The Great Recession was a period of general economic decline observed in world markets during the late 2000s and early 2010s. The scale and timing of the recession varied from country to country. The International Monetary Fund concluded that the overall impact was the most severe since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

International tourist arrivals
1988–2015
[3] [6] [7] [24] [25] [26] [27] [28] [22] [29] [30] [21]
YearArrivals
(x1000)
YearArrivals
(x1000)
YearArrivals
(x1000)
Receipts
USD million
YearArrivals
(x1000)
Receipts
USD million
1988329199678120041,4531,35820122,3432,313
1989376199781120051,6791,57020132,4282,665
1990435199894320061,7251,73220142,5272,864
199150419991,03220071,9731,97420152,6652,882
199261120001,08820082,0892,144
199368420011,13120091,9232,075
199476220021,11320102,1001,999
199578520031,23920112,1922,152

The combined effect of the global economic crisis and the 2009 flu pandemic resulted in a reduction of tourists arrivals in 2009 to 1.9 million visitors, an 8% reduction as compared to 2008. [31] In 2010, the number of visitors rose to 2.1 million, barely exceeding the 2008 peak, [10] and a record was reached in 2012 with 2.34 million visitors, a 6.9% increase over 2011. [25]

2009 flu pandemic in Costa Rica

In March and April 2009, an outbreak of a new strain of flu, popularly known as swine flu was discovered to have infected several people in Mexico and the states of California and Texas in the United States. On April 28 Costa Rica became the first Central American country to report the outbreak of the virus, with a confirmed infection. As of November 4 the Costa Rican Ministry of Health had 1,596 confirmed cases, 1,275 pending cases, 8,000 already discarded, and 38 deaths.

International tourist receipts rose to US$2.425 billion in 2012. [21] The lead country of origin was the United States with 921,097 tourists, followed by Nicaragua with 474,011 visitors, and Canada with 151,568. [32] Costa Rica was a port of call to 175 cruise ships in 2012, down from its peak of 264 ships in 2010. Cruise ships brought 247,138 short-term visitors in 2012, who spent US$14.4 million, down from US$31.8 million in 2004, the peak year for cruise ship receipts. [32]

Arrivals reached 2.428 million visitors in 2013, up 3.6% from 2012, and the U.S. continued as the leading country of origin with 929,402 visitors (38.3%). [33] In 2013, the average stay was 12.1 nights, up from 11.6 nights in 2012, and the average expenditure per international tourist was US$1,378 per stay. [24] A historical record of 2.5 million international visitors arrived in the country in 2014, up 4.1% year-on-year, and the corresponding receipts rose to US$2.636 billion in 2014, up 8.3% from the previous year. [24] In addition, the average expenditure per tourist increased from US$1,171 in 2010 to US$1,431 in 2014, and the average stay increased from 11 days in 2010 to 13.4 in 2014. [7]

Costa Rica achieved new records in 2015 with 2.66 million visitors and total earnings of US$2.882 billion. [7] The United States was one more time the main source of tourists to Costa Rica, with 1,077,044 visitors in 2015, up 8% from 2014. Arrivals from Europe grew by 6.1%. The influx of tourists from South America showed the largest growth, 13%, particularly arrivals from Brazil and Argentina. [7]

In terms of the 2013 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI), Costa Rica reached the 47th place in the world ranking, classified as the third most competitive among Latin American countries after Panama (37) and Mexico (44), and ranking sixth in the Americas. [8] Just considering the subindex measuring human, cultural, and natural resources, Costa Rica ranks in the 38th place at a worldwide level, and 7th when considering just the natural resources criteria. The country ranks a high 26th overall for environmental sustainability, ranking 9th in the world for sustainability of its travel and tourism industry development. The TTCI report also notes Costa Rica's main weaknesses, limited number of cultural sites (93rd) and poor condition of ground transport infrastructure (100th), with quality of the roads ranking 129th and quality of port infrastructure 106th. [8]

In 2012, most visitors came from the United States (39.3%), Nicaragua (20.2%), Canada (6.5%), Panama (3.9%), and Mexico (2.9%). [32] Tourists from North America and European countries made up 60.8% of all international visitors, and visitors from Central America represented 30.8%. [32] According to a 2006 survey, visitors from the Caribbean Basin and South America travel to Costa Rica mainly for business or professional purposes, while a majority of Americans, Canadians and Europeans visit the country for leisure. Word of mouth from friends and family, with an average of 58%, was the leading reason for visiting Costa Rica for vacations and leisure. The main visitor's complaint is the poor condition of the roads. [5]

Top 30 visitor arrivals by country of origin in 2015 [34]
RankingCountry
of origin
Visitor
arrivals
2015
% Yearly
growth
RankingCountry
of origin
Visitor
arrivals
2015
% Yearly
growth
1Flag of the United States.svg  United States 1,077,0448.016Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands 27,0831.5
2Flag of Nicaragua.svg  Nicaragua 446,870-3.717Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina 24,20413.9
3Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada 175,7711.818Flag of Switzerland.svg   Switzerland 20,3837.3
4Flag of Panama.svg  Panama 97,1351.219Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil 19,2728.9
5Flag of Mexico.svg  Mexico 84,94013.220Flag of Israel.svg  Israel 15,80617.6
6Flag of El Salvador.svg  El Salvador 69,4279.821Flag of Chile.svg  Chile 11,88718.6
7Flag of Germany.svg  Germany 66,4504.022Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia 11,6423.2
8Flag of Spain.svg  Spain 65,1881.423Flag of Peru.svg  Peru 11,26825.4
9Flag of Guatemala.svg  Guatemala 57,6002.024Flag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium 10,597-1.1
10Flag of France.svg  France 54,77310.225Flag of Sweden.svg  Sweden 10,5887.1
11Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom 47,49920.126Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg  China 9,55229.2
12Flag of Colombia.svg  Colombia 41,1858.727Flag of Austria.svg  Austria 7,6793.7
13Flag of Honduras.svg  Honduras 39,5607.028Flag of India.svg  India 6,56521.1
14Flag of Venezuela.svg  Venezuela 34,74515.829Flag of Ecuador.svg  Ecuador 6,1715.6
15Flag of Italy.svg  Italy 28,4064.330Flag of Japan.svg  Japan 5,4613.5
Visitor arrivals by region of origin in 2015 (Top 4)
1 North America 1,337,7557.43 Europe 393,1156.1
2 Central America 711,404-0.74 South America 156,15213.0

Comparative performance in the Latin American market

The following table presents a comparison of Costa Rica's tourism industry performance with selected countries from the Caribbean Basin and South America, including Bahamas, Cuba, and several of the top ten Latin American countries according to their 2013 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI), which are competitors in the nature travel market segment.

Selected
Caribbean and
Latin American
countries
Internl.
tourist
arrivals
2012 [21]
(x1000)
Internl.
tourism
receipts
2012 [21]
(million
USD)
Receipts
per
arrival
2012
(col 2)/(col 1)
(USD)
Arrivals
per
capita
per 1000 pop.
(estimated)
2007 [22] [35]
Receipts
per
capita
2005 [36]
USD
Revenues
as %
of exports
goods and
services
[26]
2003
Tourism
revenues
as %
GDP [8] [26]
2012
% Direct &
indirect
employment
in tourism
[8] [26]
2012
World
Ranking
Tourism
Compet. [8]
TTCI
2013
Index
value
TTCI [8]
2013
Flag of the Bahamas.svg  Bahamas (1)1,4192,3671,6684,6166,28874.634.168.7
n/d
n/d
Flag of Barbados.svg  Barbados 5369161,7091,9562,74958.542.741.9274.88
Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil 5,6776,6451,17026183.28.98.1514.37
Flag of Chile.svg  Chile 3,5542,201619151735.38.48.0564.29
Flag of Colombia.svg  Colombia 2,1752,3511,08126256.65.15.5843.90
Flag of Costa Rica.svg  Costa Rica 2,3432,4251,03544234317.512.511.7474.44
Flag of Cuba.svg  Cuba (1)2,6882,283849188169n/dn/dn/dn/dn/d
Flag of the Dominican Republic.svg  Dominican Republic 4,5634,54999740835336.214.713.6863.88
Flag of Jamaica.svg  Jamaica 1,9862,0431,02962853049.225.723.8674.08
Flag of Mexico.svg  Mexico 23,40312,7395442011035.712.413.7444.46
Flag of Panama.svg  Panama 1,6062,2591,40633021110.610.19.6374.54
Flag of Peru.svg  Peru 2,8462,65793365419.09.17.8734.00
Flag of Uruguay.svg  Uruguay 2,6952,07677052514514.210.29.7594.23

Ecotourism

Costa Rica's biodiversity is an asset for ecotourism. Shown a notable frog species, the Red-eyed Tree Frog. Red eyed tree frog edit2.jpg
Costa Rica's biodiversity is an asset for ecotourism. Shown a notable frog species, the Red-eyed Tree Frog.
Beach sign and flag from the Bandera Azul Ecologica (Ecological Blue Flag) Program at Playa Langosta, Las Baulas National Marine Park, Guanacaste. Bandera Azul Ecologica CRC 07 2009 Playa Langosta 6248.jpg
Beach sign and flag from the Bandera Azul Ecológica (Ecological Blue Flag) Program at Playa Langosta, Las Baulas National Marine Park, Guanacaste.
A hotel sign showing the voluntary certification programs the hotel has passed or is associated with. Shown are a four star Bandera Azul Ecologica and a three leaves CST Program. Tourism Certification Programs CRC 07 2009 6275.jpg
A hotel sign showing the voluntary certification programs the hotel has passed or is associated with. Shown are a four star Bandera Azul Ecológica and a three leaves CST Program.
Arenal Volcano is a main destination in Costa Rica, San Carlos, Alajuela. Arenallong.jpg
Arenal Volcano is a main destination in Costa Rica, San Carlos, Alajuela.
Manuel Antonio National Park is well known for its four beaches combined with sights of natural beauty, Quepos Puntarenas. Atardecer en Manuel Antonio.jpg
Manuel Antonio National Park is well known for its four beaches combined with sights of natural beauty, Quepos Puntarenas.
Tourists at the viewing area at the edge of the Poas Volcano crater. Viewing area Poas volcano 6651 CRI 08 2009.jpg
Tourists at the viewing area at the edge of the Poás Volcano crater.
Celeste River, located at Tenorio Volcano National Park, is among the most popular destinations by both foreign and domestic tourists. Laguna azul, Rio Celeste, Parq Tenorio.jpg
Celeste River, located at Tenorio Volcano National Park, is among the most popular destinations by both foreign and domestic tourists.
Rafting on the Pacuare River. Pacuareriverrafting.jpg
Rafting on the Pacuare River.
Cruise ships on call at Puntarenas Port in the Pacific. CRI 04 2013 Cruceros Puntarenas 6298.JPG
Cruise ships on call at Puntarenas Port in the Pacific.

Ecotourism is extremely popular with the many tourists visiting the extensive national parks and protected areas around the country. Costa Rica was a pioneer in this type of tourism and the country is recognized as one of the few with real ecotourism. [16] As of 2006, a total of 54% international tourists visited national parks or protected areas, visiting at least two such natural refuges, and it goes up to three for European visitors. [37]

In recent years, several of its top travel service providers have been internationally recognized for their commitment to planet-positive tourism. Examples include Nature Air [38] and Hotel Punta Islita [39] as winners of the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards, sponsored by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), and Lapa Rios Ecolodge [40] as winner of the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Standard-Setter.

The "Bandera Azul" Program

Implemented in 1996 and inspired by a similar program developed in Europe in 1985, [41] the "Bandera Azul Ecológica" (Ecological Blue Flag) Program is intended to promote development while curbing the negative impacts of mass tourism by helping the local community to work against pollution and protecting the environment. The program evaluates the environmental quality of coastal areas, in terms of the quality of the beaches and sea water, access and quality of drinking water, water and waste management, security, and environmental education. Depending on the degree of compliance against the optimal criteria established, a certain number of stars are awarded to the Blue Flag. [42]

After the first evaluation, ten beaches were awarded the distinction, which usually is highly publicized to potential visitors. [43] In 2008, based on the evaluation carried out in 2007, 59 beaches kept the distinction while eight beaches lost it. [42] [44] In 2009, out of 81 applicants, only 61 beaches won the distinction, and just two obtained the maximum 5 stars, Playa Blanca in Punta Leona and Playa Langosta in Santa Cruz. [45]

Voluntary Certification Program

Developed in 1997 by the Costa Rican Tourism Board, the public agency responsible for tourism development and regulation in the country, a voluntary Certification for Sustainable Tourism Program (known as CST) was introduced in order to turn "the concept of sustainability into something real" by "improving the way in which the natural and social resources are utilized, to motivate the active participation of the local communities, and to support the competitiveness of the business sector." [3] The program was aimed for all types of businesses in the tourism industry, but it began only with lodging providers. By 2007, a total of 108 parameters are considered for the CST evaluation. [46]

CST hopes to encourage businesses to become sustainable in a variety of ways, including using recycled products, implementing water and energy saving devices, properly disposing and treating waste, conserving and expanding Costa Rica's forests, and developing better systems of information management. [47] As of October 2009, out of approximately 3,000 hotels and tours operators, [48] only 105 have a Certification for Sustainable Tourism. [49] Some tour operators in the U.S. and Europe promote several small hotels that hold this certification through their travel packages. [50]

Ethical Traveler Destination

Costa Rica was included in both the 2011 and 2012 lists of The Developing World's 10 Best Ethical Destinations. This is an annual ranking produced by Ethical Traveler magazine, which is based on a study of developing nations from around the world to identify the best tourism destinations among them. The benchmarking uses categories such as environmental protection, social welfare, and human rights. [19] [20]

Costa Rica was absent from the list for several years because World Vision considered the country among the world's most notorious destinations for sexual predators. Even though the problem has not completely disappeared, Ethical Traveler included Costa Rica back on the 2011 list of ethical destinations due to the government's serious efforts to address human trafficking through increased public awareness campaigns, creating a new office devoted to human trafficking, and training officials. [51]

Beaches and adventure

Most of the main attractions are nature related, a combination of ecotourism with leisure and adventure activities: sun, sea and sand (55%); flora and wildlife watching (44%); visiting volcanoes (43%); trekking (41%); bird watching (30%); canopy tours (26%);bungee jumping from bridges (11%); surfing (11%); snorkeling (10%); and rafting (7%). Cultural activities such as visiting museums, art galleries and theaters corresponds to 11%, and business travel corresponds to 17%. [37]

Seven Costa Rican resorts were included in the 2012 Condé Nast Traveler Readers' Choice Awards, ranking among the top 15 resorts in Central and South America. The resorts are Xandari Resort and Spa (2), Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo (3), Hotel Punta Islita (8), El Silencio Lodge and Spa (9), Los Sueños Marriott Ocean and Golf Resort (11), Arenas del Mar (12) and the Westin Playa Conchal, Resort and Spa at Playa Conchal (15). The award selection is based on surveys among the magazine's subscribers, who evaluate the resort's quality of rooms, service, food, location, design, and activities. [52] [53] Two hotels were also chosen by the magazine readers among the top 5 in Central America, Hotel Grano de Oro (3) in San José and Hotel Villa Caletas (4) in Puntarenas Central Pacific. [54]

Main natural attractions

National Parks and Biological Reserves

In 2009 more than 1.2 million tourists visited national parks and protected wild reserves, up from 812 thousand visitors in 2000 and 510 thousand in 1990. Since 2003 slightly more than half the visitors are international tourists. The most visited parks are Manuel Antonio, Tortuguero, Cahuita, and the parks around the volcanoes Poás, Arenal and Irazú. [55]

Other favorite national parks and wild reserves are:

Volcanoes

Beaches

See List of beaches of Costa Rica

Seven Natural Wonders of Costa Rica

Elected in 2007 by Costa Ricans through an open contest organized by a leading newspaper as the 7 natural wonders of Costa Rica, [58] these natural sites are among the most popular destinations by both foreign and domestic tourists, with the exception of Cocos Island, which it is not easily accessed, because it is located in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 550 km (340 mi) from the Pacific shore of Costa Rica.

Ranking7 natural wonders of Costa Rica
1 Cocos Island (Spanish : Isla del Coco) Isla del coco.jpg
2 Arenal Volcano (Spanish : Volcán Arenal) Costa rica arenal fortuna 2001 12.jpg
3 Chirripo Mountain (Spanish : Cerro Chirripó) Cerro Chirripo Picture 1191 zoom in.jpg
4 Celeste River (Spanish : Río Celeste) Rio celeste zoom in.jpg
5 Tortuguero Canals (Spanish : Canales de Torguero) Tortuguero boat trip.JPG
6 Poás Volcano (Spanish : Volcán Poás) Kids Volcan Poas Dic 2005 06.JPG
7 Monteverde Reserve (Spanish : Reserva Monteverde) DirkvdM canopy walk.jpg
The Guayabo arqueologichal site, Turrialba. Guayabo.jpg
The Guayabo arqueologichal site, Turrialba.
Interior of Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica (El Foyer). Teatro National de Costa Rica - inside.jpg
Interior of Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica (El Foyer).

Medical Tourism

Costa Rica, together with Cuba, Mexico, Panama, Colombia, Brazil, and Chile, is among the Latin America countries that have become popular destinations for medical tourism. [59] [60] In 2009 Costa Rica received 30,000 international tourists seeking for medical treatment, and spent around US$250 million. Most medical travelers came from the United States and Canada. [61] During 2010, the number of patients rose to 36,000 international tourists, with 40% of them receiving dental care services. [62] In 2011, that number continued to rise, eventually reaching 46,474. [63]

Costa Rica is particularly attractive to American tourists because of its proximity and short flight, the quality of medical services and its health care system, and lower medical costs. [60] [64] The country has 20 medical centers, including small clinics and private hospitals, with international certification, including two hospitals accredited by the Joint Commission International. [61] [64]

American tourists prefer Costa Rica, together with Mexico and Panama, for dental services or cosmetic surgeries. Costa Rica offers 30% to 50% savings as compared to U.S. costs for quality dental and cosmetic surgery services, and is attractive for those U.S. citizens without health insurance or seeking procedures not covered by their health insurance plans. [59] [65] Foreign patients also find lower-priced nonsurgical procedures and tests, as an example, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in Costa Rica costs from $200 to $300, compared to more than $1,000 in the United States. [59] In average medical costs are 70% lower than in the U.S. [61] Due to the country's natural attractions, many health tourists combine their treatment with ecotourism and offer an opportunity to their family or companions to be entertained while the patient undergoes the medical procedure. [60]

Environmental and social impacts

Beachfront development boom in Tamarindo beach (circa 2007). Costa Rica Playa Tamarindo and Rivermouth 2007 Aerial Photograph Tamarindowiki 01.JPG
Beachfront development boom in Tamarindo beach (circa 2007).
Manuel Antonio beach Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio 1.JPG
Manuel Antonio beach

Beachfront developments

In many beach areas, but especially in the towns of Tamarindo and Jacó, a real estate boom took place when many foreigners from developed countries began buying beachfront properties and building holiday and vacation houses and condominiums. These developments completely changed the life style in these towns, and property prices are now so high that it became prohibitive for Costa Ricans to own beach front properties. [16] Also, the lack of planning for these developments is having a negative social impact on small communities, as in some cases they are forced to move to places with less adequate infrastructure and where not enough job opportunities exist. [66]

Hotel siting and construction

Also there have been isolated controversies regarding the site location and construction of hotels and beach resorts invading the 50 metres (160 ft) protected maritime public zone; also a case of one hotel located within a protected area; and a few cases of resort development with severe negative impacts to existing flora and fauna, by dumping construction wastes damaging coral reefs or filling mangroves. [16] As a result of these and other similar controversies, the Environment Law 7554 was passed in 1995 to require environmental impact studies before a hotel or any other development is authorized to begin construction. [67]

Another source of pollution is due to dumping untreated sewage into rivers that feed into the beach towns. In 2007 the Constitutional Court order the national and 34 local governments to stop dumping sewage into the Río Grande de Tárcoles, to restore the watershed to its unpolluted condition and to adopt an integrated solution to the wastewater problem. [68] Towns such as Jacó where tourism and real estate development has grown ten-fold since 2004 suffered a backslash in September 2008 when the government blamed the local government of Garabito for high levels of bacteria on the beach. [69]

More recently, controversy took place with the construction of the Sardinal-El Coco-Ocotal aqueduct by private developers, as the community of Sardinal protested violently because they fear that scarce drinking water will be diverted for the tourism developments whose owners are financing the pipeline. [70] As of May 2008, construction works were stopped by order of the local municipality. [71] Developers and the government authorities have explained the aqueduct is public, and that it will benefit not only the tourism developments but also the surrounding communities. [72] [73] Controversy still persists regarding the real capacity of the Sardinal aquifer.

Sex tourism

The rapid growth of tourism also has the consequence of the country becoming a popular destination for sex tourism. [74] [75] [76] [77] Despite the government and industry efforts, child sex trade has become a problem. [78] [79] A study estimated that "up to 10% of tourists who come to Costa Rica engage in sex tourism", with as many as 10,000 sex workers involved, many of whom are immigrants. [80] [81] Also it was reported that about 80% of the sex tourists are from the US. [82] This is largely because prostitution is not illegal but many of the activities surrounding it are indeed illegal, [83] such as pimping. [84] [85]

DirkvdM irazu 1.jpg
A panoramic view from the summit of the Irazú Volcano.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Tourism is travel for pleasure or business; also the theory and practice of touring, the business of attracting, accommodating, and entertaining tourists, and the business of operating tours. Tourism may be international, or within the traveller's country. The World Tourism Organization defines tourism more generally, in terms which go "beyond the common perception of tourism as being limited to holiday activity only", as people "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure and not less than 24 hours, business and other purposes".

San José, Costa Rica City and municipality in San José, Costa Rica

San José is the capital and largest city of Costa Rica. Located in the mid-west of the Central Valley, San José is the seat of national government, the focal point of political and economic activity, and the major transportation hub of this Central American nation. The population of San José Canton was 288,054 in 2011, and San José’s municipal land area measures 44.2 square kilometers, and an estimated 333,980 residents in 2015. The metropolitan area stretches beyond the canton limits and has an estimated population of over 2 million in 2017. The city is named in honor of Joseph of Nazareth.

Tourism in Argentina

Argentina is provided with a vast territory and a huge variety of climates and microclimates ranging from tundra and polar in the south to the tropical climate in the north, through a vast expanse of temperate climate and natural wonders like the Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the world outside the Himalayas, the widest river and estuary of the planet, the huge and very mighty Iguazú Falls, some of the flattest and wide meadows-plains of planet Earth, culture, customs and gastronomies famous internationally, a higher degree of development, good quality of life and people and relatively well prepared infrastructure make this country one of the most visited of America.

Alajuela Province Province in Costa Rica

Alajuela is a province of Costa Rica. It is located in the north-central part of the country, bordering Nicaragua to the north. It also borders the provinces of Heredia to the east, San José to the south, Puntarenas to the southwest and Guanacaste to the west. As of 2011, the province had a population of 885,571. Alajuela is composed of 16 cantons, which are divided into 111 districts. It covers an area of 9,757.53 square kilometers.

Monteverde Place in Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Monteverde, Costa Rica is a small community in Puntarenas, Costa Rica, located in the Cordillera de Tilarán mountain range. Roughly a four-hour drive from the Central Valley, Monteverde is one of the country's major ecotourism destinations. The area is host to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and several other natural attractions, which draw considerable numbers of tourists and naturalists.

Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport airport in Costa Rica

Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport, also known as Liberia International Airport, is one of four international airports in Costa Rica. It serves especially as a tourism hub for those who visit the Pacific coast and western Costa Rica. The airport is named for Daniel Oduber Quirós, who served as president of Costa Rica from 1974 to 1978.

Tourism in Brazil

Tourism in Brazil is a growing sector and key to the economy of several regions of Brazil. The country had 6.36 million visitors in 2015, ranking in terms of the international tourist arrivals as the main destination in South America and second in Latin America after Mexico. Revenues from international tourists reached US$5.8 billion in 2015, continuing a recovery trend from the 2008-2009 economic crisis.

Tourism in Nicaragua

Tourism in Nicaragua has grown considerably recently, and it is now the second largest industry in the nation. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has stated his intention to use tourism to combat poverty throughout the country.

Prostitution in Costa Rica is legal. Costa Rica's legal system is based on Roman law rather than common law, and so for prostitution to be illegal it would have to be explicitly stated as such in a penal code, and it is not. Nevertheless, many of the activities surrounding it are illegal, as the law forbids promoting or facilitating the prostitution of another, and therefore pimping, brothels, or prostitution rings are illegal. Prostitution is common and is practiced openly throughout the country, particularly in popular tourism destinations.

Tourism in Peru

Tourism in Peru makes up the nation's third largest industry, behind fishing and mining. Tourism is directed towards archaeological monuments, ecotourism in the Peruvian Amazon, cultural tourism in colonial cities, gastronomic tourism, adventure tourism, and beach tourism. According to a Peruvian government study, the satisfaction rate for tourists after visiting Peru is 94%. Tourism is the most rapidly growing industry in Peru, growing annually at a rate of 25% over the past five years. Tourism is growing in Peru faster than any other country in South America. Iperú is the Peruvian national tourist office.

Tourism in Djibouti

Tourism in Djibouti is one of the growing economic sectors of the country and is an industry that generates 53,000 and 73,000 arrivals per year, with its favorable beaches and climate and also include islands and beaches in the Gulf of Tadjoura and the Bab al-Mandab. The main tourist activities are scuba diving, fishing, trekking and hiking, discovering the nomadic way, bird watching, and sun, sea and sand.

Tourism in Uruguay

Tourism in Uruguay is an important facet of the nation's economy.

Ecotourism in Costa Rica

Ecotourism in Costa Rica is one of the key activities of the tourism industry in the country. By the early 1990s, Costa Rica became known as the poster child of ecotourism. The country is among many developing nations that look to ecotourism as a way of cashing in on the growing demand for this popular trend of travel.

Karina Ramos Leiton is a Costa Rican TV Host, model and beauty pageant titleholder who was crowned Miss Costa Rica 2014 and represented her country at Miss Universe 2014. She's also the CEO, and owner of the modeling agency Imagination Agency S.A., created by her for preparing future beauty pageant candidates

Tourism in the Dominican Republic

Tourism in the Dominican Republic is an industry that generates over 6 million arrivals each year. It is an important source of revenue in the country, particularly in coastal areas. The Dominican Republic is the most popular tourist destination in the Caribbean region, and ranks top 5 overall in the Americas. Its tropical climate, white sand beaches, diverse mountainous landscape, and colonial history attracts visitors from around the world.

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