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Costa Rica is Out to Conquer the Chinese Tourist

By elpais.cr

Photo by Giordano Ciampini

As a source of tourists that has grown exponentially during the past few years, the Chinese market has become an enticing option for Costa Rica, whose government is aiming for a fivefold increase in the number of visitors from the Asian giant in the next three years.

"Almost 10,000 Chinese tourists visited Costa Rica in the past year. We expect that in a medium term, of two or three years, we will reach 50,000 visitors. That takes work, effort and a big investment, but we are prepared to do it," Allan Flores, Costa Rican Minister of Tourism, told Efe News Agency.

Data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) shows that in 2012 world tourism grew by 4% when compared to 2011, reaching 1.035 million international tourists, with China and Russia leading the fastest-growing tourism source markets, with 42% and 31%, respectively.

Minister Flores said the Costa Rican government expects "to catch a good portion of those 80 million Chinese who are traveling" all over the world. To this end, government officials are defining marketing strategies and official agreements.

"China is a key market in terms of international promotion strategies. Therefore, we will sign an Air Transport Agreement with China in June", Flores affirmed.

This agreement will ratify a memorandum of understanding signed between the two governments last August, seeking to provide greater opportunities for large-scale Chinese airlines as well as more direct flight connections.

Another step taken by Costa Rica to become known in the Chinese tourism market was its participation, for the first time, in the China Outbound Travel & Tourism Market fair (COTTM Beijing 2013), held in Beijing in April 2013.

"Ten Costa Rican companies attended the fair, following our goal of establishing a strong marketing initiative and of helping the private sector make business connections with their counterparts in the Chinese tourism industry," Flores explained.

Costa Rica plans on participating in next year’s event. 

Costa Rica and China established diplomatic relations in 2007 and have since signed several cooperation agreements in different areas such as politics, economy, sports, culture and energy.
In regards to tourism, the results of this bilateral relationship are yet to be seen.

"These issues progress at a slow pace because this is a new market. We have made additional efforts so that Chinese tourism to Costa Rica increases," Flores declared.

Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), visited Costa Rica this week to participate in a continental workshop on the application of new technologies to promote tourism, emphasizing the importance of China during his visit.

Rifai described China as a "leading performer" in world tourism and urged Latin American tourism representatives to look towards this market as an option to boost tourism growth.

Costa Rica, with a population of 4.5 million people, received 2.34 million tourists in 2012, generating 2.219 million dollars in revenue, both record numbers for the country.

The tourism industry in this Central American nation, which is home to almost 4.5% of the world’s biodiversity and whose main attraction is its natural beauty, employs approximately 150.000 people directly and about 400.000 indirectly.


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