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Costa Rica tourism cruised past another milestone in 2015, attracting a record-breaking 2.66 million tourists from around the world, Tourism Minister Mauricio Ventura said Friday. That means that the equivalent of more than half the population of the entire country of Costa Rica — 4.8 million people — visited the country last year.

Continued growth from the U.S., Costa Rica’s most important tourism market, and the expansion of new airlines were among the top reasons for the continued growth, Ventura told reporters. The increasing number of tourists also helped the tourism sector swell by 9 percent in 2015, outpacing the national GDP of 2.8 percent by threefold. Ventura called the tourism sector a “motor for development” in Costa Rica, providing jobs and growing the country’s international brand.

The United States is by far the largest single market for tourists to Costa Rica, totaling roughly 40 percent of all visitors with 1,077,044 U.S. visitors in 2015. The average U.S. visitor to Costa Rica stays for just over 11 days and spends an average of $1,340, according to ICT figures.

Nearly 400,000 tourists from Europe visited last year, including an important increase in British tourists. Thanks to new direct flights from British Airways, there was a 20 percent increase in tourists from the United Kingdom, the second largest percentage increase per country after China. China still has a relatively small number of visitors but saw 29 percent growth in 2015 over 2014.

Air traffic accounts for the largest amount of visitors. Thanks to new routes from British Airways, Southwest Airlines and other airlines, air traffic to Costa Rica grew 8 percent.

Ventura said visitors cite Tico hospitality as one of their favorite things about visiting Costa Rica.

To maintain those numbers, Ventura said that ICT was working to update its sustainable tourism certification program and to expand cultural offerings for tourists beyond Costa Rica’s world-famous wildlife and natural beauty.