One of the world’s leading eco-tourism destinations is to spend $1 million over each of the next four years to step up security for tourists, following the murders of two foreign women on consecutive days in early August, writes David Ing.
The measures, which will include the launch of a new mobile phone warning app, were announced by Costa Rica’s President Carlos Alvarado Quesada following wide-scale social media reaction to the deaths.
The first victim, a Spanish woman, was found dead at Tortuguero de Pococí, Limón, while the body of a Mexican woman was discovered less than 24 hours later at the Playa Carmen beach at Santa Teresa de Cóbano.
“We want people to be able to walk our beaches, our national parks and our streets in peace,” said President Alvarado, who said that the extra money will be channeled through the country’s national tourism organisation, the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT), and ‘will be destined specifically to cover this subject’.
While he stressed it was the government’s responsibility to improve security, he added that it was up to society in general to help ‘eradicate violence against women and to improve citizen security’.
Following a meeting with industry representatives, the ICT said that the app, which will provide warning and security advice, should be ready by December, the start of the country’s peak vacation season.
It is planned to include weather, seismic and safe bathing warnings as well as basic information, from renting cars locally to leaving belongings safely in the hotel. The police presence in the main tourist areas will also be stepped up, said Tourism Minister María Amalia Revelo, while an international conference on tourism security is to be staged.
Costa Rica has managed to avoid much of the crime stigma suffered by some of its less fortunate Central American neighbours. Nevertheless, it saw a record 603 homicides in 2017, a figure the Justice Ministry attributes largely to killings among drug traffickers and organised crime gangs.
Leading newspaper La Nacion said that 16 tourists had died in ‘tragic circumstances’ in the country over the past 17 months, although only three of these were murdered, including the two latest victims.