Tourism industry says its 22,000 jobs are at risk without moratorium

When the new administration takes over, President Luis Guillermo Solís is going to have to look past job losses caused by the exit of Intel Corp. and Bank of America. The tourist industry says that 22,000 jobs are at risk there.

The Asociacion Para La Proteccion Del Turismo is coming forward now with statistics, in an effort to attract the attention of the new administration, including the new minister of Turismo, Wilhelm Von Breymann Barquero.

And the statistics are grim. Some 782 hotels are behind in payments to the Caja Costarricense de Seguridad Social. Some 100 other hotels have simply closed, and 100 more are facing auctions by various banking institutions, said the tourism association.

There has been a string of closures since the economic downturn hit in 2008, but no one has given a count until recently. The hotels and other places of accommodation in trouble are generally the small to medium operations.

The Asociacion Para La Proteccion Del Turismo renewed its call for some sort of freeze on the debts owned by tourism operations. Tourism operators are upset by soaring utility cost and, until recently, the low value of the U.S. dollar.

A minority of the association members also think that the general government is not telling the truth when it says the country has received 2.4 million annual tourists

That is a number that probably can be found in the business plan of every new tourism enterprise. The tourism association said that 5,000 new hotel rooms that can accommodate 10,000 persons have been constructed in the last three years. The country needs nearly 400,000 more tourists who stay for more than 10 days to fill those rooms, it said.

What many in the industry do not know is that the figures released by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo include as tourists nearly everyone entering the country. The figures include more than 400,000 persons each year who come from Nicaragua. When Nicaraguans return to their homes here and jobs after Semana Santa, they will be counted as tourists for purposes of the statistics.

In addition to hotel operators, rental car agency executives also are reporting low expectations for Semana Santa and the coming low season.

The tourism institute has made some unusual marketing decisions. For example, the institute invested $500,000 in NBC for advertising during the winter Olympics. The institute also put money into advertising on various social networks, Google and Yahoo/Bing, it said Feb. 9.

One goal was to raise the Internet ranking of the institute’s Web site with the online ads. Alexa, the Amazon subsidiary, tracks Web site visits, and said that the Institute’s Web site,, was in 155,605th place worldwide when the campaign started.

Tuesday that ranking was 183,018.

Some of those in the tourism industry also are urging the government to open the door wider for tourists. The Asociacion Para La Proteccion Del Turismo Facebook site recounts the story of a 40-year-old female company executive from Perú who was denied entry for a trip to Manuel Antonio last week because her passport was only valid for four months instead of the required six. She was put on a return flight, the site said.

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