EDITORIAL – The Central Government has mandated its civil servants holidays for Semana Santa, shutting down, save for essential service, at the close of business on Friday, March 27 and re-opening, Monday morning, April 5.
The shutdown will not cost the government an extra colon for the nine-day vacation: four of the days are weekends (March 21, March 28, April 3, and April 4), two of the days are legal holidays (Thursday, April 1, and Friday, April 2), leaving only three days (March 29, March 30 and March 31) which will be deducted from their vacation days.
The plan is to give this group, who typically earn above average and have more disposable income, to boost local tourism, a sector hardest hit by the pandemic.
The intention is good, no one can deny it.
But will it be a success?
It can be if tourism entrepreneurs don’t follow the custom that many have, to hammer their guests with sky-high rates for Semana Santa.
To that end, the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) – Tourism Board – is asking entrepreneurs to offer differentiated and reasonable rates for national tourists. They should be no discrimination against international tourists, but that is a story for another time.
It is popularly known that it is cheaper to vacation outside of Costa Rica than within the country.
Naturally, it cannot be said that this is a rule, but there are cases (stories, reports, comments on social networks, travel offers on websites) that at least give food for thought.
For example, how is it possible that some Costa Rican hotels charge national tourists up to US$300 per night, just for accommodation?
Who, in these times of pandemic, can or would want to spend that kind of money for a few days?
But, it’s not just the hotel owners. How about the taxi drivers, transfer and tour operators that, for example, charge national tourists a lot of money for very short trips? Again, we will leave the price gouging of international tourists for another occasion.
Those prices may be paid by some foreign tourists, which is debatable, who earn well, but are far out of the pockets of most Costa Ricans.
In these lean times, national tourism operators must remember that there are locals, Ticos, that don’t earn a government salary, they should offer them promotions, special pricing, to get them through the door.
Hopefully, they will come to their senses this Semana Santa, heed the advice of the ICT, customers who call but don’t book because of the prices, and really offer, not only for Semana Santa, rates that fit the budget of the majority.
As a tourism entrepreneur, if you want to fill your hotel, have people visit your restaurant, hire your services, put money in your hand, do your part.
There is a Tico saying, “La carreta se saca del barrial más fácil cuando la yunta jala parejo” (the cart can be pulled from the mud easier when the pair of oxen pull evenly).