British Airways (BA) will introduce a new regular link between London and Costa Rica for summer 2016. The new service will enhance accessibility between Europe and the Central American country and will be operated, like many of its flights into predominantly leisure markets, from London’s Gatwick Airport using its Boeing 777-200ER based fleet.
The airline will initially offer two weekly flights to San Jose’s Santamaria International Airport from May 4, 2016, but already plans to add a third weekly rotation during the winter 2016/2017 schedules. This will be the second long-haul link between the UK and Costa Rica adding to the weekly Thomson Airways service between London Gatwick and Liberia, which will launch in November this year.
“With everything from its incredible wildlife, rugged rainforests and volcanic peaks, as well as stunning beaches and – of course – world-famous coffee – Costa Rica offers an incredible array of places to visit and experience,” said Colm Lacy, head of commercial at Gatwick Airport for British Airways.
The Costa Rican Tourism Board, Instituto Costarricense de Turismo, (ICT) is opening the country’s borders to more international visitors as part of a sustainable tourism policy. The country is located in Central America, nestled between Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south; it is bordered on the east by the Caribbean Sea and the west by the Pacific Ocean.
With an abundance of unique wildlife, landscapes and climates, the small country proudly shelters approximately five per cent of the known biodiversity in the world. In order to protect and preserve its wealth of natural resources, it has become a global leader in sustainable practices with protected areas comprising 26 per cent of its land mass.
According to Costa Rica’s recently appointed minister of tourism, Mauricio Ventura Aragon, direct connectivity into Europe is a priority of Costa Rica’s tourism strategy, especially the growing interest from the UK market. “In the last 12 months alone we have seen an increase of 12.9 per cent of tourists from the United Kingdom visiting Costa Rica, staying an average of two weeks, helping to make a valuable contribution to the Costa Rican economy,” he said.
Our analysis of Sabre Airport Data Intelligence demand statistics shows that despite the limited non-stop capacity on offer between the UK and Costa Rica over recent years, an increasing number of travellers are flying between the two countries with numbers rising 64.9 per cent between 2004 and 2013, when the 40,000 annual passenger milestone was exceeded for the first time.
After a relatively stable few years, traffic grew 19.6 per cent between 2012 and 2013 and then again by 18.5 per cent between 2013 and 2104, increasing bi-directional demand above 50,000 passengers.
A couple of years ago at our Routes Americas forum in Cartagena, Colombia, Routesonline spoke exclusively to Allan Flores Moya, then Minister of Tourism for Costa Rica, who outlined more details about the important role that air transport will play in supporting the country’s economy and developing tourism. “The tourism strategy of Costa Rica is related directly to aviation,” he explained. “Sustainability is the key goal for Costa Rica tourism. We want to be a sustainable destination.”
According to the Minister, attendance at Routes Americas and World Routes through the years has been “great” for the country, and he confirmed that the participation in Cartagena that year has resulted in final agreements being reached with Canadian carrier WestJet on a new year-round service to Liberia and with Delta on a new Los Angeles link.
The attendance of the events has certainly helped place Costa Rica in the minds of the world’s airline network planners and over subsequent years has seen further international connectivity within the Americas and these two new long-haul links to London from Thomson Airways (London Gatwick – Liberia) and British Airways (London Gatwick – San Jose) being established.
You can view the February 2013 video interview with Allan Flores Moya, now President of the Costa Rica Tourism Board and Executive Board and Vice-President of the Committee on Sustainability of the World Tourism Organization, below…