October 16th, 2012 – Costa Rica’s tourism industry, especially hotels, have had a difficult low season this year, but operators have their fingers crossed for a recovery as December approaches.
The “low season blues” were different this year depending upon the area of the country. In La Fortuna, San Carolos, hotels reported an average occupancy rate of just 20%, whereas in the southern zone the situation was quite better, with average occupancy above 50%.
Low numbers in La Fortuna are likely the result of factors that have been at play for a few years (which no doubt include the slumbering state of the Arenal Volcano), while the positive results in the south are the result of newfound popularity for the area’s uniqueness and novelty, as well as improved access.
In Guanacaste, most operators say the September 5th earthquake had little impact on the sector. Still, the mayor of Nicoya, Marco Jimenez, sent an official document in which he is requesting the state banks give tourism companies a grace period on some obligations.
The Caribbean has seen quite a “low” low season as well, with hotel occupancy running an average 20%. However, the downturn seems to especially have affected those hotels and lodges catering to local tourism. Local tourism makes for a sizable portion of demand in many parts of the country from May until the first two weeks of December.
The tourism sector is currently between its low and high season, and October, generally the slowest month of all, is often used to provide maintenance, renovations, and other preparations for the high season.
Sofia Elizondo, director of CANATUR (National Tourism Chamber), explained that hotels generally book their rooms prior to the start of high season, and so far they appear to be doing well.
Elizondo also says tourists have been booking their vacations with less advance reservations in recent years.
As a result, CANATUR and operators alike are feeling cautiously optimistic about the high season come December.