Tourism occupancy and confidence appear so-so

The nation’s tourism chamber expects that the number of visitors to Costa Rica will be up 10.56 percent in December over the same month in 2009.

Still, the industry is facing a lackluster high season if initial statistics are correct. The Cámara Nacional de Turismo said that hotel operators estimate about 70 percent occupancy rate during the high season. A second estimate, based on reservations, is 74 percent occupancy for the last two weeks of the year.

In addition, a survey showed that the confidence level of those in the tourism industry dipped slightly during the second third of the year compared to the first four months.

The occupancy estimates vary based on location. The chamber said that Monteverde lodging operators estimated that they would fill about 84 percent of their rooms during the high season. That was the highest rate reported. In the northern Caribbean the estimate of 53.3 percent was the lowest.

The industry has been struggling due to the world economic crisis, although some 206,248 tourists are expected to visit the country this month, said the chamber. That is the 10.56 percent increase over last year.

Dec. 15 generally is considered the beginning of the high season, and special promotions up to 40 percent off, orchestrated by the chamber and the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo, end Dec. 20.

The chamber did its occupancy survey from Dec. 1 to 6 and received responses from 91 hotels, it said. December typically shows a 26 percent increase in tourists over the previous month, which is the tail end of the rainy season.

The cold wave that has hit Canada and the United States might work in favor of Costa Rican tourism operators. Although some parts of Costa Rica saw temperatures Tuesday of just a few degrees above freezing, coastal communities continued to be comfortable in the mid-70s or around 24 degrees C.

The occupancy rate estimate also suggest to would-be tourists that there will be rooms available.

The data for actual reservations was less rosy than the overall prediction for the high season. The survey showed the Central Valley lodging operators had just 39.4 percent of their rooms confirmed for the last two weeks of the year. That was the lowest percentage reported by regions. The north Pacific of Guanacaste reported 69.3 percent in reservations.

Tourism occupancy
and confidence estimates
High season
estimate %
Dec. 15-30
reservations %
Central Pacific
Northern plains
North Pacific
South Pacific
Southern Caribbean
South Guanacaste
Central Valley
Northern Caribbean

Source: Cámara Nacional de Turismo

The low reservation rate in the Central Valley is a continuation of the change in tourism routes since the upgrade of Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia. Just 10 years ago nearly every tourist flying into Costa Rica passed through San José on the way to a destination and returned to spend a night on the way home. Now direct flights can bring tourists to within a half hour of the Pacific beaches.

The chamber measures confidence on a 200-point scale. The average of tourism operators in the survey that the chamber made of 124 firms came in at 95 points, just 3.7 percent lower than the first four months of the year. The second survey included tour operators, car rental agencies, restaurants as well as lodging operators, it said.

The confidence index has a number of components, including market condition, prospects for future economic activity and evaluation of the past four months. The results also were broken down by region. The chamber estimates that an index number between 65 and 133 represents medium confidence with anything higher than 133 as high confidence.

Despite the slight difference between surveys for the first four months of 2010 and the second four months, the chamber reported that the latest index number was 25 percent higher than the same period in 2009.

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