Last updated: 02:00 PM ET, Thu January 21 2016

Costa Rica Tourism is Cooking Up Something Special

Destination & Tourism | Brian Major | January 21, 2016

Costa Rica Tourism is Cooking Up Something Special

PHOTO: One of Costa Rica's many fruit markets. Tourism officials are looking to emphasize sustainable cuisine in a bid to keep tourism arrivals growing. (Photo courtesy of Thinkstock)

Costa Rica has emerged as a favorite destination among travelers seeking natural beauty, adventure and environmental sensitivity and the numbers reflect that popularity. Costa Rica’s visitor arrivals are growing at three times the rate of the nation’s economy, according to Costa Rica Tourism Board (ICT) officials, with the most recent totals exceeding previous ICT records.

Costa Roca hosted 2.6 million combined land-based air arrivals and cruise ship arrivals in 2015, an increase of 5.5 percent over 2014. The totals include more than 1.8 million air arrivals, an 8.0 percent increase; Costa Rica also welcomed more than one million American visitors for the first time in 2015.

Mauricio Ventura, Costa Rica’s minister of tourism, called 2015 “an exceptional year for development in the tourism industry.” He said increases in the number of airlines currently flying to Costa Rica have facilitated the country’s visitor growth, with new flights to Costa Rica launched from flights from Baltimore, Houston, Calgary and Denver in 2015. Overall Costa Rica’s U.S. arrivals increased seven percent in 2015, said Ventura.

Tourism officials are seeking to continue the country’s sustainability policies while also expanding resources for travelers. To that aim ICT is partnering with the Costa Rican Chamber of Restaurants (CACORE) and the National Institute of Biodiversity (INBio) to launch the second phase of a national plan for healthy and sustainable food.

Under the plan, professionals are training Costa Rica restaurant staff to prepare traditional dishes, placing a high emphasis on utilization of local plants, vegetables and fruits. The program offers certification in Costa Rican cuisine for establishments that complete ICT training.

In January ICT issued Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) gastronomy designation to five restaurants Costa Rica restaurants that are “raising the bar for truly authentic, sustainable cuisine,” according to ICT officials. Training and certifications at the national level for the gastronomical and tourism sectors will continue throughout 2016, officials said.

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