Costa Rica is Smiling

Costa Rica is huge in visitor appeal, as demonstrated by its winning Recommend’s Readers’ Choice Award for the Best Selling Destination in Latin America for the second year in a row. Beach mavens come to swing in hammocks along the shores of two oceans or dive in to come face-to-face with myriad colorful corals and fish. Nature lovers head for the national parks and birders return again and again to update there “life lists” of spotted species. The action buff, meanwhile, keeps the adrenalin flowing in a nonstop round of biking, hiking, kayaking, rafting, golfing, scuba diving and deep-sea fishing.

And as Costa Rica has fulfilled many a vacation dream, tourism itself is important to a country often called the “Switzerland of Central America.”

“It’s hard to believe that 55 years ago,” says Minister of Tourism Carlos Ricardo Benavides, “only agriculture defined the Costa Rican economy, with the balance of payments and economic solvency dependent on coffee and banana plantations. Those products continue in importance, but nowadays tourism generates $2 billion annually, three times the amount of bananas and eight times the amount from coffee.“

Costa Rica’s attraction superlatives, long marketed under the image umbrella of “No Artificial Ingredients,” have combined to send the country’s inbound tourist figures to lofty heights—now past the two million mark. However, Benavides points out that the nuts and bolts of the country’s success story include greater accessibility with expanded air services. “Today, Costa Rica receives 20 international airlines, which operate 600 flights weekly to the country’s two international airports, one at San Jose and the other at Liberia in the Guanacaste state. And starting Feb. 13, Frontier Airlines will link the Liberia airport to Denver, adding a second flight and Costa Rica gateway to its present San Jose service.”

Presently, the minister is delighted that, according to studies done by Green Travel International, the country with the best and the most world recognition as a green destination is Costa Rica, and he credits that to “…our Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) program, which has made Costa Rica the pioneer for sustainable tourism practices and a leader in ecotourism. [Through this program], we are achieving a competitive edge.” Agents interested in becoming specialists in Costa Rica’s green offerings can take the Costa Rica Specialist Program II, available at For a more general overview of the destination—and available on, as well—there’s the Costa Rica Specialist Program I, showcasing the multitude of attractions and options your clients can enjoy during a trip to this Central American country.

For the immediate future, Benavides notes that while his country has well established its adventure and ecotourism niche market, “…new challenges in the year ahead will be developing the meetings and conventions sector by building a convention center, and we are highly encouraging the promotion of medical tourism and wellness.”

And one final note on award-winning Costa Rica—Benavides is particularly proud to report another kudo for his country, Travel + Leisure ranked Costa Rica as the safest and happiest country in the world.