San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rican tourism sector hopes high season will rejuvenate low year

The official first day of tourism high season began Tuesday, as Dec. 1 normally marks the day that many hotels across the country hike rates in expectation of an increased amount of tourists during the four-month stretch from December through April.

But this year might be a little different.

Harry Bodaan, the owner of La Mansión Inn in the central Pacific town of Quepos, says he will delay the seasonal price hike almost through the end of the month, hoping to attract more guests during the first weeks of December. Judging by the state of tourism, other tourism businesses may follow suit.

Due to the worldwide economic crisis, the past three months have been particularly difficult for Costa Rican tourism businesses. In September and October, tourism numbers were the lowest in years, including a drop of over 12,000 tourists in October 2009 versus October 2008. With the atypical fluctuations in the numbers of tourists, businesses plan to alter strategies for the upcoming months, as economic instability has left them unsure of what to expect.

“Everybody was doing well for the year until about August. The last 90 days the bottom dropped out,” said Harry Bodaan, owner of La Mansión Inn in the central Pacific town of Quepos, a member of the Chamber of Commerce in Manuel Antonio. “It´s showed us that we can´t rest on our laurels and expect tourism to stay up. It´s time to roll up our sleeves and work hard to promote our region (Manuel Antonio) to markets that have not been exploited.”

Bodaan said the area business associations are promoting the region at international events, such as at a boat show in Fort Lauderdale, in the U.S. state of Florida, last week.

“The U.S. economy is hurting and people are hanging on to their money tighter than usual,” Bodaan said. “We´ve learned it´s important to be marketing at all times, as we´ve seen others who stood by idly expecting tourists to come have been hit pretty hard by the recession.”

According to the Costa Rican Tourism Board, just over 1.59 million tourists visited the country from January through October 2009. Though the final two months of the year have yet to be tallied, it is widely understood that overall tourism figures will see a decrease from the banner year of 2008, when nearly 2.1 million tourists came to Costa Rica.

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