- President Solis said he was unaware of the decree; Tourism Minister says that he will continue as the Head of Tourism in the country.
- Tourism activity generates more than 500,000 direct and indirect jobs, employers claim.
Various sectors of tourism businesses grouped in the Chamber of Hotels and the Costa Rican Chamber of Tourism (CANATUR) expressed their annoyance with the President of the Republic, Luis Guillermo Solís, and his administration, since they consider that Solís has lowered the level of tourism after subscribing a decree that places tourism as a “sub-sector” and not as a sector of the economy, as it has been (usual) in recent years.
The controversial decree is number 38536-MP-PLAN, which establishes the Organic Rules of the Executive Branch and gives the Ministry of Economy, Industry, and Commerce (MEIC) the rectory on issues of tourism and not the Ministry of Tourism.
Tourism chambers warn that this change makes it clear that the Costa Rican Board of Tourism (ICT) and the sector in general will be administered by a ministry that does not know the reality and needs of the tourism industry.
“During the first 100 days in office, the sector has faced several struggles with the current government, contrary to the peace mentioned by the President, he has sent us to the trenches of “negotiations” with different ministries,” says a statement by which hoteliers disclosed their dissatisfaction.
“Therefore, respectfully but vehemently, we demand this mistake to be corrected by the government authorities and to reinstate the importance it deserves,” the statement said.
According to hoteliers, tourism generates 8.2 % of GDP, 20 % of exports, 16 % of private employees, and generated more than US$ 273 million in taxes.
CANATUR also expressed its disagreement with the decree and indicated that the fact that tourism is now under MEIC’s direction reflects that the Government has passed the sector to the background; so becoming a sub-sector of the economy.
“When a sector reports data of two million visitors and the generation of more than two billion dollars annually, it means that it is a totally revitalizing activity. We consider inconvenient to treat the main driver of Costa Rican economy this way,” said Heriberto Pablo Abarca, President of CANATUR.
For his part, the President of the Republic stated publicly that he was not aware of this change in the categorization of the sector.
“The reaction of the President causes us great disappointment. We hope this is not a reason to stop legacies that hinder tourism development and the implementation of public policy, which is urgently needed for this industry to grow with ease,” said Abarca.
The Minister of Tourism, Wilhem von Breymann, downplayed the change, and said that “this should not worry us, because there is no change; everything continues as usual “, but the Minister of Economy said that” if that was so, it must be due to an error that can be corrected. Obviously, tourism should be led by ICT.”
According to the chambers, this should be clarified as soon as possible, because, as said by them, it is not a subject of clerical error, but reflects a lack of interest in a sector that they claim has struggled to formalize tourism since 1998, and has eventually become a sector and it is now losing this category.
“For years, we were a sector led and coordinated by a Minister who knows, for better or worse, our sector. We’re not talking about mere semantics. It is a clear message and a decline in the struggles that we have faced for years. It is an even bigger weakening if it brings the “blessing” by the agency that regulates us,” said the Costa Rican Chamber of Hotels in a statement.