Following the tourism development theme of my last two blogs, I am pleased to report on the newly released tourism forecasts of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). Using what is called in the industry “Tourism Satellite Accounting” (TSA), the WWTC creates reports forecasting the economic impact of tourism over the next decade for 178 countries throughout the world.
Costa Rica’s TSA delineates which industries define the Costa Rican tourism industry and to what extent, such as: What percentage of diesel fuel consumption or construction services may be attributed to tourism? What is the tourism industry’s gross domestic product? What are the tourism industry’s employment rates? What are the expenditures by international tourists visiting Costa Rica (“exports”) versus expenditures by Costa Ricans and expats traveling within the country (“domestic”) This data over time is fed into a computer model that also looks at broad economic impacts from the export of products, population growth, interest rates, surveys and other data.
In general, the Costa Rican tourism industry will grow at a projected annual rate of 5.2%, meaning that its tourism economy will be 66% larger in 2024 than in 2014.
This data is good news for employment. This year, WTTC projects that employment in the tourism sector will grow by 7.2% over ten years, ranking Costa Rica as 8th in the world in the percentage of tourism job growth (the world average is only 2.0%).
Another point of interest is a comparison between domestic and international tourism spending in 2013 and 2014. For 2013, visitor exports increased by 14.2% over the previous year, while domestic spending rose by only 3.6%. But for 2014, both visitor exports and domestic spending have equal projected growth rates of 5.8%. Perhaps the Costa Rican middle class is growing, or perhaps national advertising is successfully encouraging Ticos and expats to travel within the country.
But let’s look back in time to see where Costa Rica’s tourism economy has been. International visitor exports peaked in 2008 at 1285 CRCbn (about $2.50 billion), with 2009–2010 dipping by about 15%, then slowly recovering 2011–13, with a projected 10% growth forecast for 2014 to about $2.77 billion, finally achieving an industry recovery from the recession, and then some. But using constant 2013 dollars, Costa Rica’s international visitor exports will grow to nearly $8 billion by 2024.
For ticos, and for expats living in Costa Rica the picture is somewhat different. In 2008, their domestic travel posted 676 CRCbn ($1.35 billion), then slowly increased year-over-year to a projected 985 CRCbn ($1.97 billion) this year. For 2024, domestic tourism will reach 2,385 CRCbn ($4.77 billion).
When we compare overall Costa Rican tourism at 5.2% annual growth over the next decade with the tourism forecasts for the region, Costa Rica achieves respectable competitiveness.
The countries in the regional chart (at top) differ in size, products, and average rates of spending per visitor but most have higher projected growth rates than the world average of 4.2%. Costa Rica is holding it own, but Nicaragua’s exports, at 8.8% growth, mark a shift, perhaps through aggressive marketing of affordable tour packages with many more cultural products to sell.
What does this mean for us in Nosara? I don’t have the data, but my guess is that the increase in visitors we have seen due to publicity in the New York Times, CNN, etc. over the last few years will put Nosara in the same arena as Nicaragua, which at a 5.7% rate of growth over ten years is a 75% increase in visitors by 2024. Further extrapolation and guesswork leads me to project a doubling of tourism-related employment in Nosara by 2024.