San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Tourism slump continues despite Easter bump

The National Tourism Chamber (CANATUR) released its latest statistics on how the economic downturn is affecting the Costa Rican tourism industry on Tuesday, and the results are not pretty.

Over two-thirds of tourism-related businesses – and over three-quarters of hotels in particular – reported business was down during the first three months of 2009, in comparison with the year before.

The chamber, which surveyed 112 tourism outlets last week, said the outlook for May, June and July does not look any better. The same groups – 67.7 percent of all tourism outlets and 76.2 percent of hotels – report that reservations are down compared to last year.

Tourism outlets can take solace, however, in the numbers for Easter week. As The Tico Times reported earlier this month (see TT, April 17), business during Easter week was better than expected. While 71.2 percent of businesses had projected fewer tourists than 2008, a smaller amount – 57.1 percent – reported a decline.

“While we cannot ignore that the crisis has affected the tourism sector nationwide, the numbers show that while reservations were not higher than prior years, Easter week served to change the perceptions of many tourism businesses that have been unmotivated,” CANATUR president Gonzalo Vargas said in a statement. Reservations increased, Vargas said, thanks to the chamber´s efforts to promote “national tourism.”

The survey, however, found that 37.6 percent of tourism outlets reported the same number of sales to Costa Ricans as last year´s Easter week, 30.1 percent sold less and 19.4 sold more.

Tourism businesses laid off an average of seven workers in March and April, the survey reported. A majority, 65.3 percent, of tourism outlets did not fire any workers during the period, while 32.6 percent reported layoffs.

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