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Costa Rica tourism entrepreneurs report millions lost to bad weather, street protests

July 10, 2015
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Damage caused by floods in the past three weeks and road blockades on Wednesday caused major losses to Costa Rica’s tourism sector, the National Tourism Chamber (CANATUR) reported Friday.

The floods did not cause severe damage to tourist infrastructure, but harsh weather conditions prompted massive cancellations in lodging in the province of Limón and the cantons of Sarapiquí in Heredia and Turrialba in Cartago.

The tourism sector had hoped to see a spike in income as many Ticos take time off during the current mid-year school vacations.

Business owners in Sarapiquí estimate cancellations so far have caused them losses of some ₡180 million ($330,000).

Research from CANATUR found that cancellations in that canton reached 80 percent, most of them from tourists scheduled to spend the mid-year vacations there.

Cancellations at businesses in Limón and Turrialba this week reached an estimated 50 percent, but CANATUR is still gathering information from these areas.

The National Emergency Commission (CNE) on Friday morning downgraded the Maximum — Red — Alert to Yellow, or Preventive, for the Caribbean region, Sarapiquí and Turrialba.

CNE also downgraded the Yellow Alert to Green for the northern zone and lifted the Green Alert for the central and southern Pacific.

Road blockades haven’t helped

Street blockades staged by private chauffeurs, or porteadores, on Wednesday also affected restaurants and bars in various parts of the country.

The Costa Rican Restaurant Chamber (CACORE) reported that its members had expected a big day on Wednesday as Costa Rica’s national football team faced Jamaica in the team’s opening match at the CONCACAF Gold Cup. But blockades in the San José area caused many people to stay home, according to CACORE.

Restaurants and bars surveyed by the chamber reported losses in sales up to ₡1 million each. Low affluence of customers also affected waiters’ tips, they reported.

CANATUR also reported that porteadores blocked access for over 15 hours to the country’s two international air terminals: Juan Santamaría in Alajuela and Daniel Oduber in Guanacaste, causing many tourists to miss their flights.

Tour operators said Wednesday’s protests were a “violation of the constitutional right to freedom of transit” and said the government’s response to the roadblocks was too late.

Blockades caused several traffic jams that lasted until President Luis Guillermo Solís ordered officers from the National Police and the Traffic Police to clear the roads at around 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

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