Rapid European Market Expansion for Costa Rica

The tropical paradise nation is welcoming more visitors from the continent, thanks partly to new non-stop flights

Costa Rica’s rising renown as a tourism hotspot that appeals to a global market was confirmed with the news that nearly three million international arrivals were recorded in 2017. While the US is Costa Rica’s main market, being only 2.5 hours away, the nation bounded by the Caribbean and Pacific is looking to further expand arrivals from Europe, its fastest-growing global market. We asked Mauricio Ventura, Costa Rica’s Minister for Tourism, firstly why Costa Rica’s Sustainable Tourism Development model has long appealed to ecoconscious European travel markets.

Costa Rica is well-positioned in Europe in terms of what the country is about and what tourism is about, and sustainability in the broader sense – not only environmental but economic and social and cultural as well. We started with sustainability when it wasn’t trendy more than 20 years back, when we created a certificate for sustainable tourism for the private sector.

Our development model in terms of sustainable tourism is, as I said, also social and cultural, which means that the Costa Rican people are involved in tourism, are involved in the development of tourism. They feel part of it, they accept, they feel a kind of empowerment. So therefore, tourists have a fantastic experience. Costa Rica is about experience. It’s not about the waterfall, or the beach or the mountain. It’s about the experience.”

How does this “experience” underline your new tourism campaign under the slogan, “Costa Rica – My Choice, Naturally”?

The message of the campaign is that people that visit Costa Rica get the sense of happiness and wellbeing because of the contact with the people, as well as the nature. You leave Costa Rica as a better person. It’s back to basics in a way. That’s what visitors cherish about visiting Costa Rica. The campaign is being implemented across diverse digital, social and broadcast platforms. We will reach a wide range of markets like never before. We will have specialists who will talk about what makes Costa Rica so unique.

With only one daily flight from Madrid directly connect ing Europe and Costa Rica in the past, expansion in European markets had been limited. That now has changed. Please tell us about the new direct flights to Europe, and how they have helped you rapidly manifest existing interest in Costa Rica in European markets?

In the last couple of years, we went from one direct flight to nine direct flights. That has completely changed the situation. With direct connections to London, Paris, Frankfurt, Munich, Amsterdam and Zurich added in the last two years, a rapid increase in guests from these European markets has followed. In the case of the UK market, it grew by 56% in 2016 (after direct flights between Costa Rica and London operated by British Airways and TUI began). So the market was there, the interest in Costa Rica was there. The issue was the flights.

With German airline Lufthansa announcing it will run a non-stop connection between Frankfurt and the Costa Rican city of San José starting from March 29, 2018, it seems that Germany will again become a vital market for you. In this regard, how important is ITB Berlin for promoting Costa Rican tourism?

Very important. Costa Rica has been coming to ITB Berlin for more than 30 years now. We’ve never missed a show. The German market has always been important, and now more so because of all the effort we’re putting into Europe. The size of the stand is bigger than ever, and more private Costa Rican travel companies (a record 43 are attending this year) are getting into the European market. Now we have even more reasons to come to ITB Berlin – as if we needed them!

Photo: Mauricio Ventura – Minister of Tourism, Costa Rica