Tourism firms just have to work harder, chamber says

Leaders of a tourism business chamber said Thursday that the economic crisis has actually benefited the tourism industry by making businesses aggressive in competing for customers.

That is the implication that the Cámara Nacional de Turismo is getting from a survey that it conducted of 120 businesses that are its members.

The survey shows that while businesses are not doing as well as they were in 2008, the picture for the tourism industry is not as bleak as many believe, chamber leaders said at a press conference.

“The study is an official response on the part of the chamber to indicate the real situation for businesses,” said Walter Valverde, vice-president of the chamber. “They said ‘We’re not doing so bad.’”

This survey, conducted in October, is the first of its type for the chamber. It was administered to owners, managers and directors of 120 businesses that are affiliated with the chamber. These businesses included primarily hotels and tour operators, but there were also some car rental businesses, restaurants and travel agencies.

The survey focused on three topics: profits, employment and perceptions as to whether business was better before the financial crisis or now.
Despite 70 percent of respondents saying that times were better before the financial crisis, the chamber president, Juan Carlos Ramos, said that these results still show that the industry is recuperating better than most people thought.

“We are improving little by little,” said Ramos.

In an interview after the conference, Valverde explained that results from the study give credence to the adage “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

“The industry is more dynamic,” he said. “Tourism demand is growing, but supply is growing faster.”

Valverde said that this means businesses have to work harder to attract customers than they did before the financial crisis. He said that this has strengthened the industry as a whole.

Overall, respondents said that business was better before the crisis, but profits and employment are holding at a stable level. Some 47 percent of participants said profits were normal, 39 percent said profits were “good” or “very good,” and 14 percent said profits were “bad” or “very bad.”

As for hiring, although only 18 percent of managers said that they plan to hire, only 13 percent said they plan to lay off employees. The other 69 percent said they planned to maintain their current staff and payroll.

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