Unquestionably, 2007 was a year of growth for Costa Rica’s national tourism industry and the beginning of 2008 confirms consistency. January of 2008 marked a good start in tourist air arrivals according to the preliminary data gathered by the Costa Rica Tourist Board (ICT).

Despite economic worries in the main North American markets, the first month of 2008 shows optimism.  International tourism arrivals registered at the Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) and Daniel Oduber Quirós (LIR) have showed a steady growth.  According to the ICT, 127,647 international visitors arrived by plane in January of 2008, marking a 13.7 percent over the same month of 2007.

For Costa Rica Tourism Minister, Carlos Ricardo Benavides, these numbers indicate a positive trend for the current high season already taking place, and at the same time committing the government and sector to improve efforts to promote tourism activities.

“These figures are excellent news, a 13 percent increase is way over the annual estimates and we should take advantage of this to work even harder throughout the year, especially now considering the economic situation, particularly in the United States.  We are pleased to announce that we have started off the year successfully,” said Benavides.

In the case of the national airport Juan Santamaría, the numbers indicate an estimated increase of 15 percent, representing approximately 121,000 tourists. The Daniel Oduber airport has an expected increase of 7.3 percent, with 23,000 visitors.

Expansion began last year with U.S. and European airline companies including Spirit Airlines, Frontier, Champion Air, Sunwing Airlines, First Choice, Air Caraibes, and Air Comet flying across Costa Rican skies.

Costa Rica closed 2007 with a total of 1.9 million international tourist arrivals, an 11.5 percent increase in comparison to 2006.  Revenue generated by international tourists reached a historic high of US$1.9 billion, up US$300 million from last year.

In terms of investment, in 2007 Costa Rica received an estimated US$800 million in tourism investment; excluding investment in real estate development.  Hilton, Marriott, Crown and Express are among some of the hotel chains that decided to invest in Costa Rica’s tourism industry.

In 2008, Costa Rica will be the host of the next United Nations’ International Task Force on Sustainable Tourism Development.  In that sense, sustainable tourism will continue being a pivotal goal for 2008.  Costa Rica has set a goal to become a zero carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) tourist destination by the year 2021.

Costa Rica, one of the countries with the greatest biodiversity in the world, has been since 1990, one of the first eco tourism destinations where the national heritage and resources have been used in a sustainable and responsible way. The Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST), created by the ICT in 1999, is one of the initiatives to support sustainable development within the tourism industry.