What happens to Tourism when a Volcano erupts?

Last week, the Turrialba Volcano located 50 kilometers east of Costa Rica’s capital city of San Jose had its largest eruption in more than a century.   Eyewitnesses reported fiery explosions and ash falling like snow over parts of central Costa Rica.   This eruption of the Turrialba Volcano is currently no  threat to human lives, but an emergency alert of ” yellow” has been emitted by the National Emergency Commission and volcano researchers and other specialists are keeping a close watch.

Click here for live images of the Turrialba Volcano.

Turrialba Volcano
Researchers observing the recent eruption of the Turrialba Volcano near the Captial City of San Jose.  Ashes have fallen over the central parts of Costa Rica.

There are about 60 families that live in the nearby area that have been evacuated and are directly impacted by these events.   Livestock and agriculture are the areas that are most impacted by falling ashes at this point in time.   But also, some local tourism operators in Turrialba have actually seen increased interest by visitors to observe this natural phenomena.

As a company that operates hotels and lodges in Costa Rica and Nicaragua where volcanic activity is common and part of everyday live, we ask ourselves how much increased volcanic activity in a country would impact tourism positively or negatively. Most of the hotels and lodges that we operate are far away from any of the active volcanoes in Costa Rica, but news can get easily distorted or blown up and for somebody living far away the actual situation related to traveling to a country with volcanic activity might not be quite as clear.

view of turrialba volcano
View of the volcanic activity observed at Turrialba Volcano during the first days of November 2014.

So far, we have not received any questions relating to the increased activity of the volcano, so we have felt that there is no immediate impact on tourism at this point in time.

Volcanic activity can also have a very positive impact on tourism and the lack of activity can negatively influence tourism.  A few years ago, the ““ until then ““ most active volcano in Costa Rica, the Arenal near La Fortuna ceased activity and became practically dormant.   The red lava running down the perfectly shaped cone of Arenal was a great draw for tourists from around the world.  Hotel occupancy rates in the Arenal area decreased in the past years.  However, the inactivity of the volcano happened about at the same time as the financial and economic crisis affected Costa Rica’s most important feeder markets so it is unclear if this development directly impacted tourism visitation to the area.

Arenal Volcano with Lava
A clear night at the Arenal Volcano during its strongest activity in the year 2006. Today, the volcano is practically inactive.  The area still attracts tourism but has lost its main attraction.

What do you think?  How do you feel about volcanoes in a tourism destination.  More of a draw or more of a turnoff?  Send us a note to info@cayugaonline.com.

The Cayuga Collection of Sustainable Luxury Hotels and Eco Lodges consists of eight properties in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

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