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Costa Rica’s tourism sector reserved despite spike in holiday travel

The last weeks of December brought a little comfort to entrepreneurs and workers in the tourism sector, with a hotel occupancy that reached between 70% and 80% in beach areas, according to surveys carried out by the Costa Rican Chamber of Hotels.

While the tourist areas located on beaches of Guanacaste, Central Pacific and the Caribbean showed positive numbers, occupancy in mountain regions — including Monteverde and La Fortuna — was between 45% and 50%.

According to Flora Ayub, president of the Chamber of Hotels, these numbers correspond mainly to national tourists enjoying a local vacation.

“We have to take into account that there is no longer high season, it is not something that we will see this year and we do not know how long it will be; although it is true that international tourism is gradually increasing and the country makes its efforts to promote Costa Rica abroad, the process is slow,” Ayub said.

According to the most recent data, Costa Rica received a total of 36,044 tourists by air in November.

Tadeo Morales of the Arenal Tourism Chamber said he still has reservations despite the recent influx of tourists.

“The figures for this end of 2020 and early 2021 do not allow us to say that we had recovery. If we compare the visit with previous years, of course we have to thank that national tourism responded positively. The visit was between 40% and 80% occupancy in all places, and although international tourism does not exceed 25% of what we had in the past, it is an incentive,” Morales said.

From his perspective, the tourism sector in Costa Rica needs additional support, and the government is not responding appropriately to requests to promote a rescue plan.

“Many large hotels are seeing how to raise money to pay settlements and reduce their services again, and unfortunately some will not be able to survive. We cannot accept a speech by the President of Costa Rica saying that a recovery in tourism is already being seen, because that is not the case,” the businessman argued.

On the contrary, Morales said, the government discourse indicates a misunderstanding of the economic realities of the country.

For her part, Flora Ayub added that it was essential that hotels, especially in the Greater Metropolitan Area, seek ways to innovate so that local tourists are attracted.

Some examples of this type of initiative are related to offering weekend or single-day packages, where guests can enjoy movies or pool facilities and take advantage of the driving permissions afforded by having a hotel reservation.

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A version of this story was originally published by Semanario Universidad on January 5, 2021. It was translated and republished with permission by The Tico Times. Read the original report at Semanario Universidad here.

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