San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Small Costa Rica hotels seek safety in numbers

Tomorrow about 150 managers of small hotels from around Central America will gather in San José´s Radisson Hotel for their sixth annual conference, searching for ways to remain competitive in the face of a growing number of foreign-owned chain hotels.

The irony of their chosen venue is not lost upon the event´s organizer, local hotelier and president of the Costa Rican Network of Small Hotels, Jane Lemarie, but she says the problem with small hotels is they just don´t have the space to host a big conference. That is why the message of the conference, which is also organized by the Central American Federation of Small Hotels, will be strength through numbers, she says.

Some 2,500 hotels are open in the country and 80 percent of them have fewer than 50 rooms, according to figures from the Costa Rican Tourism Board. Yet the increasing presence of foreign hotel chains, such as the Hilton, which recently announced a fifth hotel project here, presents a challenge to smaller hotels with fewer resources, especially in marketing.

But Lemarie has a plan. She hopes that small hotels can better compete by emphasizing service and by cooperating with each other as a network.

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