Costa Rica - How attractive is the Central American country for investors, entrepreneurs, skilled workforce, and visitors? How well does it perform in global rankings measuring economic development, ease of doing business, talent attraction, social and environmental sustainability?
Join us as we dive deep into Essential COSTA RICA - the strategies and stories that make Costa Rica successful and admired. Let's explore:
- Costa Rica’s country brand strength and reputation
- The country's success at attracting business and talent
- Costa Rica’s sustainability innovation strategy
- Celebrating 10 years: Costa Rica Country Brand
Our thanks to PROCOMER for sharing resources and information supporting our overview of Costa Rica as a location to live, invest and work.
The Essential COSTA RICA Country Brand
Costa Rica’s country brand strategy - Essential COSTA RICA - was developed in 2013 by an Inter-institutional Committee comprising The Costa Rican Foreign Trade Promoter (PROCOMER), The Costa Rican Institute of Tourism (ICT), The Costa Rican Coalition of Development Initiatives (CINDE), The Ministry of Foreign Trade (COMEX), Ministry of Culture and Youth of Costa Rica, and The Ministry of External Relations.
Built on the reputation of the country, the Essential COSTA RICA country brand stands for the nation’s commitment to Excellence, Sustainability, Social Progress, Innovation, and Costa Rican Origin for the benefit of current and future generations.
It showcases the nation’s values focused on peace, education, and health through tourism, trade, and direct foreign investment, supporting many international initiatives, especially those aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change.
Importantly, Essential COSTA RICA is backed by public policies aimed at sustainability, such as those on decarbonization (Costa Rica aims to achieve zero emissions by 2050).
Costa Rica's Sustainability Vision
Costa Rica is widely considered a world leader in social progress, environmental conservation, and sustainability.
To achieve its clean and green image, the Costa Rican government has spearheaded many initiatives to safeguard its natural assets resulting in over 26 per cent of land and marine territory protected within 161 national parks, refuges, and conservation areas.
Naturally, Costa Rica ranks 19th for protected areas, 30th for limiting CO2 emissions, and 1st for cutting SO2 emissions, according to the 2022 Environmental Performance Index.
Notably, the Essential COSTA RICA is backed by public policies aimed at sustainability. Costa Rica's commitment to decarbonize and achieve zero emissions by 2050 earned them the 2019 Champions of the Earth award from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). It is well on track to reduce CO2 emissions as 99 per cent of the country’s electricity is already derived from renewable sources, supplying clean energy to nearly all its citizens.
According to the World Bank, Costa Rica is the first tropical country to reverse deforestation and the first Latin American country to receive a payment from the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) for reducing its carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
Enjoy stress-free living and share long, happy lives with low ecological footprints just like its residents as the Happy Planet Index ranked Costa Rica the best among 161 countries from 2006 - 2019 and in 2021 for providing a "good life without costing the earth".
How Strong is Costa Rica's Country Brand and Reputation?
2023 marks the 10th anniversary of Costa Rica's country brand strategy, and in the Spotlight series, we deep dive into how the Essential Costa Rica country brand has helped set the country's growth trajectory with investment attraction, talent acquisition, and tourism.
Let's start with taking a look at rankings from leading reputation consultancies that showcase how the country brand ranks among its peers.
Brand Finance, in its annual benchmark study on the value of nation brands, considers Costa Rica among the top 20 fastest growing nation brands in 2022, with an increase of up to 19%, to US$30 billion of brand value growth.
The Bloom Consulting Country Brand Ranking Tourism edition 2022-2023 finds Costa Rica as a top performer in the Americas region (fourth place), praising its sustainability strategy as the engine of its economy. Meanwhile, Costa Rica ranks 9th in the Bloom Consulting Country Brand Ranking Trade edition 2022-2023 in the Americas region, for its high Country Brand Strategy Rating and FDI Net inflow scores.
Costa Rica’s steady commitment to building a strong country brand has won it many accolades over the years as a proof of its growing reputation on a global stage, like winning the Place Brand of the Year award by the City Nation Place forum in 2019. The brand steered the country as a world-wide example of social progress based on education, health, and sustainability.
Costa Rica’s creative use of its passport to highlight the country’s four key themes of national identity - conservation, transition to green energy, commitment to education and peace, and pride in creative talent - recently won the City Nation Place Awards 2022 in the Best Use of Design category.
Doing Business in Costa Rica
How attractive is Costa Rica as a destination for businesses, investors and entrepreneurs?
Costa Rica has taken numerous steps to boost trade and commerce to position itself as an attractive destination for investment and business expansion. It has resulted in an upward trend in exports and diversification in revenue sources from various industries, not just in tourism and wellbeing but in life sciences, manufacturing, business services, and digital technologies, to name a few.
In this regard, the Country Brand Director of PROCOMER, Adriana Acosta says that, "Ten years ago, when we launched Essential Costa Rica as a brand, the idea was to offer added value to different sectors, not just tourism but also exports, foreign investment, and culture, and tell the world that we are more than just one aspect."
To provide a resilient supply chain and boost manufacturing and exchange of goods, Costa Rica has 16 free trade agreements with Canada, China, the EU, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea and the US, giving it preferential access to 2.8 billion people and 61% of the world’s GDP and guarantees access to +150 export destinations helping businesses to remain competitive and expect steady growth.
Costa Rica provides a conducive business envirnoment for companies looking to set up shop or expand their business. According to the World Bank's Doing Business report, Costa Rica has grown steadily in its ease of doing business score, improving from 56.6 in 2010 to 69.2 in 2020.
Foreign investors looking to be a part of Costa Rica's economic diversification can safely invest here owing to the country's low corruption, educated and productive workforce, and stable government.
According to Investment Monitor’s 2022 Inward FDI Performance Index, Costa Rica received more than 13 times its fair share of inward greenfield foreign direct investment (FDI) compared to its GDP.
View from the top: What executives have to say about Costa Rica as a business location?
For climate-conscious investors and businesses looking to make impact investments in terms of sustainability, Costa Rica provides the perfect business conditions for tech companies as well as the high-tech medical equipment industry.
For example, VMWare’s is on the path to reaching net-zero carbon emissions in its operations and supply chain by 2030, thanks to Costa Rica’s efforts to generate clean energy through renewable sources such as wind, water, sun and the heat of the earth (geothermal). Jancy Castro, VMware’s Costa Rica site manager, explains the firm's move to the country as follows: “From renewable energy to carbon-neutral service suppliers, Costa Rica offers easy access to operations expansion without compromising sustainability goals.”
Similarly, Medtronic, one of the world’s largest medical device manufacturers, aims to reach net zero operations by 2030, and Costa Rica has been a great place to invest in achieving this goal. Alberto Meseguer, site director of operations at Medtronic Costa Rica: “Operating our manufacturing plant in Costa Rica has been very satisfactory in terms of productivity, efficiency and costs, thanks to the availability of excellent technical talent, the free zone regime, the outstanding electrical infrastructure and logistics.”
Essential Costa Rica
As a stamp of authenticity and to ensure products and services meet rigorous national standards, Essential COSTA RICA developed a business evaluation protocol that covers the five values of the country brand: Excellence, Sustainability, Social Progress, Innovation, and Costa Rican Rooting.
The protocol sets a roadmap for commercial businesses and the tourism sector to assume a real and demonstrable commitment to country brand values, among them, of course, sustainability.
More than 670 companies have committed to pursue the Essential COSTA RICA license. These business establishments understand that beyond using the logo, carrying the country brand adds value to their businesses outside of the nation’s borders. A large variety of committed Costa Rican companies use the country brand in their communications, most of them small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Talent: Why Relocate to Costa Rica?
Is Costa Rica attractive for talent?
Highly skilled talent looking for opportunities in a foreign land with a good quality of life need not look further than Costa Rica. It offers scores of opportunities in the manufacturing and service sectors and boasts of new investment projects as well as employment opportunities in multinational companies.
Costa Rica's bold leadership and proactive policy-making have helped develop a robust education system which accounts for 7.4% of the country’s GDP. In 1948, the country officially abolished its army and allocated all associated funds to prioritize educating its citizens.
As proof of Costa Rica’s commitment to delivering highly skilled talent in alignment with market needs, the Education at a Glance 2022 OECD report shows that Costa Rica spent 12.8% of total government expenditure on education, higher than the OECD average of 10.6%. Also, relative to GDP, public spending on primary to tertiary education (5.9%) is higher than the OECD average (4.4%).
Businesses looking to invest and develop products in Costa Rica can
shape their strategies with complete confidence as the local workforce are well-trained and has the right skillsets in the technology sector. In 2021, employment rates of 92% in Costa Rica were highest among tertiary-educated individuals who studied information and communication technologies.
This makes it attractive for companies. As Natalia Méndez Debriones, Leader of Medical Device Operations at Philips tells TPBO, “The growth of Philips in Costa Rica is due to strong results from local operations, due to the quality, commitment, and passion that our Costa Rican talent has demonstrated over the years. This is how we went from being a plant of 550 employees in 2015 to 2,850 employees today.”
Reaffirming Costa Rica’s commitment to providing highly skilled labour, Randy Schiestl, VP of R&D at Boston Scientific
adds, “Costa Rica has proven to be a compelling, performance-driven location for Boston Scientific. Key drivers for our success at two major sites in Costa Rica include highly committed, multi-disciplined local talent; cross-divisional engagement; growth into R&D, process development and lab competencies.”
According to the Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2022 by INSEAD, Costa Rica is one of the five talent champions among upper-middle-income countries for the second consecutive year.
How attractive is Costa Rica for digital nomads?
Remote workers who wish to combine work with travel in a tropical haven can relocate to Costa Rica as they have taken extensive measures to attract remote workers to the country.
One such initiative is the Digital Nomads Law which aims to attract digital nomads with lucrative tax benefits when they live, work, and play in the beautiful locales of Costa Rica.
Tourism in Costa Rica
Costa Rica's popularity as a tourist destination attracted 3.37 million visitors in 2019. After the abrupt pause in travel due to pandemic-related restrictions, Costa Rica received 2.3 million visitors in 2022, indicating signs of recovery.
For outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, Costa Rica is a hot pick as an ecotourism destination. Without a doubt, Costa Rica ranks second in the Americas region according to the WEF Travel & Tourism Development Index 2021.
Costa Rica’s natural beauty is its biggest asset. It is not surprising that the Time Magazine chose Costa Rica as one of the greatest places in 2021 lauding its efforts in conservation, reversal of deforestation, and transition to renewable energy.
In the Latin America & Caribbean T&T Competitiveness Index 2019, Costa Rica ranks third in its overall ranking but has the region's top score for the T&T Policy and Enabling Conditions subindex (worldwide rank 5th) due to impressive Prioritization of Travel & Tourism and International Openness.
Tourism in Costa Rica is highly dependent on its rich natural heritage, culture, gastronomy, people and pura vida resulting in the country scoring higher than its regional counterparts in the Environmental Sustainability and Natural Resources pillars.