Tamarindo merchants take steps to succeed during the low season

Afternoon rain clouds move in and thunder echoes above Tamarindo just before many of the lingering visitors begin to migrate away from the emptying beach. Early May marks a turn towards the low season, and the tourist town’s patronage has taken an expected dive since Semana Santa.

However, some local business owners and employees say they are not merely bracing to survive this annual hit but instead preparing to succeed during it.

“If you can build up you business in the right way you’re almost looking forward to this time when the low season hits,” said Joe Walsh, founder and CEO of Witch’s Rock Surf Camp. He added that after the busy surge brought by holy week, the town’s atmosphere feels a little more like authentic Costa Rica again.

This typical dip in incoming tourists is easily seen through the eyes of the hospitality industry. According to Yerling Rodríguez from the town’s welcome center, reservation numbers for all hotels have significantly declined in the past few weeks.

To combat this inevitable drop, a number of hotels institute deals for their guests during the rainy season. Melanie Soto, a receptionist and tour advisor at Hotel Nahua, said her hotel responds with significant discounts, like lowering an apartment-sized room that is normally $75 to a rate of $50 per night.

So far Hotel Nahua has remained relatively full during the first few weeks post-Semana Santa. Ms. Soto said the place was only expecting 30 percent occupancy one night last week, although the numbers are erratic due to unexpected walk-ins.

“It’s starting to get slow,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of Internet reservations but we’re a hotel that gets a lot of walk-ins at night. It’s just a little low.”

Restaurants also pile on the discounts for the dwindling crowds once the calendar flips to May. Alvaro Hernández, an employee at Enjoy, said the Argentinean restaurant is now offering up to 40 percent off of certain food and drink items and has seen an immediate boost in diners.

For companies in Tamarindo and beyond, the low season of tourism serves a reminder of how important it remains to attract Costa Rican customers. Walsh pointed out this focus on bringing in a steady stream of local money by saying businesses should find a proper balance in clientele.

“We don’t rely 100 percent on international tourism,” he said. “We’re just as dependent on the local market as the international market. It’s great to capitalize on both of those.”

Witch’s Rock Surf Camp opened in 2001 and has 18 rooms that Walsh said almost consistently stay full throughout the year. His enterprise is helped by the surf program, restaurant, brewery, and shop that all occupy the same location at the town’s northern entrance. Walsh credited improvements in the nearby roads and incoming highways as major reasons why Tamarindo businesses should still be able to attract visitors even during the rainy season. He said the recent Caldera Highway project has been one of the best things to happen for tourism and businesses in Guanacaste.

Last year the month of May saw the third fewest international arrivals for Costa Rica, according to numbers from the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo.

By Michael Krumholtz
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

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