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Last Updated: Friday, 5 October 2007, 12:12 GMT 13:12 UK
China talks up Costa Rica tourism
Bird in rainforest of Costa Rica
Costa Rica's rainforest are home to many species
Chinese tourists are being encouraged by their own government to visit the Central American nation of Costa Rica.

The recommendation comes nearly four months after Costa Rica broke 60 years of ties with Taiwan and established diplomatic relations with Beijing.

Costa Rica's tourist board said China's move was a huge boost for the sector.

It is estimated 200m Chinese are able to afford overseas travel. Last year just 1,545 people from China visited Costa Rica, local media said.

The Costa Rican government is currently negotiating with several airlines and tourist agencies to open routes and enable easier travel between China and Costa Rica.

Eco-tourism

China's announcement is hugely important for Costa Rica and Central America, according to Geoffrey Lipman, assistant secretary general of the World Tourism Organisation.

"Anything China does is important because it is a world power," Mr Lipman told the BBC's Spanish Americas website.

Costa Rican landscape
Natural parks and reserves cover about 25% of Costa Rica

"In time, China will have an enormous influence on tourism - it is a huge generator of tourists, if I can put it that way."

The Chinese government's move would have an impact both in the long and the short term, Mr Lipman said.

It sent a message to millions of Chinese people and would encourage investment in Costa Rica's tourism sector, he said.

"Tourism of the future is eco-tourism, environmental tourism. Costa Rica has a record of developing this type of tourism."

Tourism is one of the most important sectors for Costa Rica's economy, generating some $1.6bn (800m) a year.

Its tropical forests are home to a profusion of flora and fauna, and about 25% of its territory is covered by national parks and reserves.

The country has based much of its marketing on its environmental credentials, including its certification programme that rates businesses for sustainable tourism and conservations projects.

Factors include:

  • the extent to which flora and fauna are protected
  • the way waste is disposed of
  • energy and water-saving measures
  • customers' participation in sustainable tourism
  • impact on local communities

In June, when the decision to switch ties to Beijing was announced, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias said his country needed to develop closer links with China in order to attract foreign investment.

Taiwan and China have been governed separately since the end of a civil war in 1949. Both often accuse each other of using "cheque book diplomacy" to attract allies.

Other tourism destinations in Latin America recommended by China include Mexico, Chile and Peru.



SEE ALSO
Taiwan loses Costa Rica's support
07 Jun 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Chinese rivals grapple for Pacific
04 Apr 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Costa Rica's digital nature
25 Feb 03 |  Technology
Costa Rica stands apart
27 Jul 04 |  Americas
Country profile: China
22 Mar 07 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Costa Rica
21 Jun 07 |  Country profiles

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