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A NATURAL FIT:Canadians the ‘right kind of traveller’ for Costa Rica

Canadians are just the kind of visitors Costa Rica wants, and Costa Rica is just the kind of destination that Canadians will want to visit in the COVID era, says the country’s tourism minister.

Gustavo Segura Sancho says the Central American country has been conscious for many years, even before the pandemic, of attracting “the right kind of traveller.”

And Canadians clearly tick that box, he says: “Travellers that appreciate nature, and culture, and appreciate what we are about. We don’t want just any kind of traveller, we want travellers that want to feel like a Costa Rican and understand the pura vida (pure life) attitude that we have… And that’s why we love our Canadian travellers.”

And whereas Costa Rica appreciates Canadian visitors, the feeling will be reciprocal, the minister maintains.

Chatting virtually, along with other Costa Rican tourism execs, to the Canadian media last week, the minister said he believes that adventurous and naturally inclined Canadians will love a country where 26 percent of its space is under some form of protection (including 30 national parks, private rainforest reserves, and wide-open beaches) and which largely depends on “open-air experiences” to fuel its tourism sector.

“It’s always been like that, but it comes in very handy in times like this (of social distancing),” he added. “Groups in Costa Rica have always been small when it comes to having an adventure experience, and now we call those social bubbles!”

However, Sancho is quick state that the country has also been diligent in introducing strict health and safety protocols across both the tourism industry and the economy at large to combat COVID.

He notes that Costa Rica, which closed its borders on March 18 because of the pandemic, did not have a single case of community transmission for five months afterwards, giving the country a head start to reinforce its already strong health system and implement 16 protocols covering all sub-sections of the tourism industry, from hotels to airports and tour operators.

Tourism minister Gustavo Segura Sancho

In a nutshell, we bought ourselves time… to make sure we had very strict protocols in place,” he said, noting that the country also has over a thousand health clinics throughout the country.

Those attributes, and the lowest coronavirus fatality rate in Latin America (1.2%) – plus being awarded WTTC’s “Safe Travels” certification enabled the country to begin re-opening its border to international visitors again on Aug. 1 as part of phased-in return to tourism.

And that includes Canadians, who can now fly to San Jose and Liberia from Toronto and Montreal with Air Canada, and Liberia from Toronto with WestJet. Sunwing and Air Transat service are set to re-launch in February.

They are among 20 of 27 international carriers to resume flights to Costa Rica since the border re-opened.

And while the country welcomed only 36,000 visitors in November (well off the pace of three million annual visitors a year, pre-COVID), Sancho said the country’s primary motivation is to re-open safely in order to protect its both its citizens and visitors.

“We understand that this is a gradual process,” he said. “The fact is, Costa Rica took it’s time, the work was very collaborative, and we know what we are doing…”


This holiday season, Visit Costa Rica is launching a campaign to celebrate and remind us of those who are essential to our lives by awarding 15 individuals with trips for two to Costa Rica in 2021. Canadian agents and travellers are invited to nominate a person that has made a meaningful difference in their lives through the “Who Is Essential to You” campaign and trip giveaway. Nominations (excluding residents of Quebec) can be made through Jan. 31 at


First published at Travel Industry Today

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