After the sharp decline suffered by the tourism sector in Costa Rica during 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the authorities of the country turned their eyes on the great potential of Chinese tourists to help boost that economic activity.
According to official figures, during 2020 the number of visitors to the Central American country fell by 66 percent, which is why, for the Costa Rican Minister of Tourism, Gustavo Segura, the recovery will necessarily go through betting on new niches and markets.
Segura explained that they are now focusing their efforts on attracting “the right type” of visitor, which led him to think of the Chinese tourist market as one of the main alternatives to attract more tourists. To do so, Costa Rica this year established an exemption from the consular visa requirement for Chinese citizens residing in the municipalities of Beijing and Shanghai.
“The People’s Republic of China has an interesting population in the municipalities of Beijing and Shanghai from a strategic point of view for us, because within the 50 million inhabitants that exist in those two municipalities, we know, from market research information, that there are a significant number of travelers who would like what Costa Rica offers them as a tourist destination,” said the minister.
According to Segura, in these two Chinese cities there are a good number of potential travelers who would be interested in what Costa Rica offers: getting to know the national parks, beaches, hot springs and volcanoes; as well as the culture, gastronomy and crafts that distinguish this Central American nation.
How can Chinese travelers get this visa waiver?
The minister explained that they must buy a travel package to Costa Rica through a Costa Rican operator and that their passport indicates that they are a resident of one of these two cities.
“So it is the tour operator in Costa Rica that makes the request to the Migration Directorate to make a visa exception for that client who is going to have. It is a relatively quick procedure,” Segura said. The operators that can carry out this procedure will only be those that are duly certified by the Costa Rican Institute of Tourism and travelers must also purchase medical insurance.
In addition to residents of Beijing and Shanghai, Chinese citizens who have a US visa or a European visa from any of the countries in the Schengen zone can enter Costa Rica without the need to apply for a visa at the consulates of that country in China.
Regarding air connectivity, Segura recalled that although there are no direct flights between the two countries, there are direct connections to cities such as Mexico, London, Paris, Madrid and Amsterdam, or via the United States if you have that visa. country.
The minister assured that this measure is a first step towards a gradual opening, since Costa Rica also needs time to know the tastes and needs of the Chinese traveler and train its tourism sector to receive it, so he hopes that the first Chinese who take this option are frequent travelers to other destinations and who master another language such as English.
Segura expects that this year at least 20,000 Chinese tourists will visit Costa Rica and that this number will grow in the following years. For the minister, attracting more tourists from China is also an opportunity to strengthen ties of friendship between the two peoples.
Costa Rica has a lot to contribute to the world and in particular to China
“I believe that Costa Rica has a lot to contribute to the world and in particular to China in our experience, for example, of decarbonizing our economy, of managing a national park system, of using alternative energies, and China has a lot to teach us as well. in a poverty reduction strategy, in a technology application strategy for the benefit of citizens. I believe that both societies can benefit from a more robust diplomatic exchange, “he added.
“I would like to invite the citizens of Beijing and Shanghai who want to know a country with a quarter of its territory in a form of protected area, to those who want to know active volcanoes, hot springs, Caribbean beach, Pacific beach, full of biodiversity next door “, concluded the minister.