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Destination happiness: Costa Rica celebrates record tourist numbers

Admittedly, Costa Ricans need no special reason to celebrate, as according to the World Happiness Report they are among the world’s happiest people. All the same, the figures presented by Alejandro Castro, marketing director at ICT (Instituto Costarricense de Turismo) on Thursday at ITB Berlin are reason enough to celebrate. 2015 was a record year in tourism for the little country that disbanded its armed forces in 1949, since when it has spent the money saved on health and education. The country with a population of 4.5 million, whose longest domestic flight takes only 35 minutes, was able to welcome 2,665,608 foreign visitors.

European tourists numbered almost 400,000, the largest share of whom were Germans (66,450), followed by Spaniards, French and British. German tourist numbers will probably rise still further. Condor already flies to Costa Rica from Frankfurt three times a week, and in November 2016 it is adding another direct flight, this time from Munich. According to Castro, European tourists stay an average of 17 days or more and spend 1,650 dollars.

This little country, one of the safest in Latin America, is a model pioneer of ecological and sustainable tourism. Major attractions include smoking volcanoes, hot springs, dense primary forests, tropical beaches of the kind one can only dream of on both the Pacific and the Caribbean, and exotic flora and fauna. Costa Rica is also home to four UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Guanacaste National Park, Cocos Island in the Pacific, the Talamanca Nature Reserve (along with La Amistad National Park) are World Natural Heritage Sites, while the pre-Columbian settlements and stone spheres of the Diquis culture are World Cultural Heritage Sites. According to Alejandro Castro, Costa Rica offers its visitors “a little bit of everything“ and impresses guests with kind and welcoming locals. People as happy as Costa Ricans are only to keen to share their happiness with visitors.

Rainer Heubeck


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