Cuba & Costa Rica Blog
About this blog
Written by Cuba and Costa Rica expert Christopher P. Baker, this blog will update readers on life in these two diverse and exciting countries.
- Last blog post on Costa Rica and Cuba
- First-ever group motorcycle tours of Cuba successful
- Cuba’s Mariel port readying for Panama Canal expansion
- Musings on wildlife encounters on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula
- Cuba’s Steam Trains puffing their last gasp
- My top five thrilling activities in Costa Rica
- Cuba’s fun February festivals include Harleys, Books, Cigars
- Five top volcano viewing experiences in Costa Rica
- New road along Costa Rica / Nicaraguan border mired
- Cuba’s Hotel Campoamor at Cojímar to be restored?
- Cuban revolutionary Celia Sánchez honored in new book
- Christmas challenge for Costa Rica’s sexually abused girls
- Costa Rica opens Chinatown in downtown San José
- David Soul films Hemingway’s car restoration in Cuba
- National Geographic Expeditions receives license for Cuba tours
Costa Rica and Cuba report tourism growth
On Wednesday, the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) announced that 1,285,599 foreign visitors arrived in the first six months of 2012. That’s a 7.4 percent increase over the same period last year. For 2011 as a whole, Costa Rica received 2,195,960 foreigners, up just 4 percent over the prior year.
ICT’s 2010-2016 National Sustainable Tourism Plan aims to boost tourist arrivals by five percent annually. So the 2011 figures exceeded the target.
In explaining the recent increase, officials point not least to increased airlift from North America to Liberia’s Daniel Oduber International Airport, in Guanacaste. Liberia accounted for 343,000 arrivals, or about eight percent of visitors arriving by air (the balance land at San José’s Juan Santamaría International Airport). For example, Jet Blue initiated four-times weekly New York-Liberia flights last November; and Frontier Airlines began direct flights from Denver.
ICT’s clever global marketing campaign—Costa Rica’s Million Dollar Gift of Happiness—featuring an adorable talking sloth (see my blog post) and $1 million in giveaways no doubt also gave the country a boost of publicity.
ICT has been accused of conflating tourist arrival numbers with those of Nicaraguan and other Central American migrant workers. See my blog post of March 12, 2012.
Meanwhile, Cuba’s National Office of Statistics last week posted data showing that tourist arrivals to Cuba jumped from 2.5 million to 2.7 million in 2011—a seven percent increase.
Having spent six months in Cuba since last November while leading "Cuba: Discover its People & Culture" trips on behalf of National Geographic Expeditions, I can vouch that all Havana's hotels are jam-pack full.
Visitors to Cuba were also feeling less parsimonious than in recent years, apparently, dropping $2.5 billion—an increase of 12.8 percent for 2011.
No doubt this bump in per person expenditure owes much to the influx of U.S. visitors initiated in 2011 when President Obama created the people-to-people (P2P) license provision guaranteeing every U.S. citizen his and her constitutional right to travel to Cuba (albeit on highly structured group trips for “educational exchange”). The Cuban government charges U.S. companies significantly more for the privilege than it does Canadian and European tour operations.
Fair enough! One can hardly begrudge them doing so as a simple reflection of that all-important capitalist principle—supply and demand. Ha! It appears that the Communist government just 90 miles across the Florida Straits has more in common with the U.S. than ‘we’ have heretofore admitted.
Only a handful of U.S. organizations are licensed to offer P2P trips, which sell at a premium. Nonetheless, they sell out in a heartbeat, reflecting the vast pent-up demand of U.S. citizens to fulfill their constitutional right to see Cuba for themselves and make their own determinations about the place.
The Latin American Working Group fights a good fight on your behalf with its ‘End the Travel Ban on Cuba’ campaign...
If you’re excited and ready to visit this fascinating Caribbean island, buy my Moon Handbook Cuba--the most information-packed, traveler-friendly guidebook out there.
For further information on Havana, buy Moon Spotlight Havana.
For complete information about travel in Costa Rica, buy Moon Handbook Costa Rica
Disclosure: I occasionally accept free or discounted travel when it coincides with my editorial goals. However, my opinion is never for sale. The opinions you see in Cuba & Costa Rica Journal are my unbiased reflection of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Learn more about Christopher P. Baker.
Copyright © Christopher P. Baker