Monday is Labor Day in the United States, a legal holiday.
The day also marks the traditional end of summer and the start of elementary and high school semesters.
For Costa Ricans, especially those in tourism, the day marked the beginning of a tough month with the lowest number of arriving tourists for the year. In 2010 some 120,214 tourists came to Costa Rica in September, about 5.7 percent of the yearly total. Only 44,216 tourists came from North America, the country’s principal market, according to statistics from the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería.
October was not much better. The number compared with between 100,000 and 118,000 tourists in February and March of that year. That’s the high season.
Elsewhere in the retail economy, merchants, facing the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30, are dumping much of their merchandise at sale prices. Some sales are 40 percent off. The retail operators plan to stock up with Christmas goods after Sept. 30.
More troubling than the raw statistics are reports from hotels and rental car companies that there are very few reservations booked. Although that may change.
Costa Rica has not profited from the drug cartel troubles in México as much as tourism operators here had hoped.
México has made a strong case in the United States and Canada that organized criminal activity will not be found in the traditional tourism locations like Cancún. That may not be correct, but the pitch is the centerpiece of the Mexican advertising and public relations campaign.
Economy tourism operators are being hit the hardest because their segment of the market is the one with the biggest problems from the U.S. economy. Luxury accommodates seem to be doing well.
Flights continue to be a stumbling block. A family of four, two adults and two children, would pay $1,879 total for a New York-San José roundtrip, according to online sources. That is the lowest available for mid-October by Expedia, and it does not appear to include the $26 per person exit tax or the $15 welcome tourist tax payable on arrival.
Tickets to Cancún are about $100 less. But México also has a departure tax.
The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo hired what it described as an innovate ad agency in January. It is 22squared, described as one of six of the largest independent advertising agencies in the United States with 89 years of experience and now with 302 employees.
Little has been heard from the ad agency since. A check of its Web page devoted to Costa Rica shows the last entry was Feb. 24 when a person identified as Jane Matthews was writing glowingly of Four Seasons in the Papagayo Project. That’s where a quick breakfast cost $36.