Sunday 4 December 2022

Tourists changed booking patterns: they wait to last minute

The sector shows figures of slow recovery, but it is impossible to project what the high season will be like

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3 December 2022 - At The Banks - BCCR

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Q TRAVEL – Before beginning to perceive the first trade winds of the season, Costa Ricans took advantage of the arrival of November to begin planning their end-of-year vacations. Many – even – proceeded to secure their reservations.

But that’s a pre-pandemic story.

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National tourists have changed booking patterns. Driven by the pandemic, sanitary restrictions, the economic situation and the uncertainty that exists, now local tourists wait until the “last minute” to confirm their weekend reservations.

It is something that is done with a difference of just days, as confirmed by the executive director of the Costa Rican Chamber of Hotels, Flora Ayub, confirming that years before they had a greater notion of how the December tourist season could behave, but not now.

For 2020, the sector still does not have a projection of how December will be. This year, the Chamber will wait a little longer to conduct its polls and establish some projections.

The Costa Rican tourism sector is – without a doubt – the most affected by the sanitary restrictions caused by the pandemic, although it has already begun to show some signs of revival.

April and May represented months of practically total closure, so the occupancy was calculated at zero.

July and August presented some reopening data and September already marked a slight improvement, at least in relation to April and May.

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According to the Central Bank’s hotel occupancy index, last month the average reached 13%.

The figure is still small when compared with the levels of occupation that existed before the pandemic. By September of last year, about half of the rooms in the hotels were occupied.

According to Ayub, last month the occupancy improved, reaching even 25%.

It has helped that flights are already arriving from various destinations, although these still represent a tiny part of the total.

Far from recovery

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According to the latest occupancy and price study prepared by the Central Bank and presented in the Macroeconomic Policy Report, the country’s hotel sector is still far from a recovery.

By collecting data from at least 645 hotels for the past month, the province that faces the most problems is Alajuela, followed by San José and Guanacaste.

Lower occupancy has also pushed the sector to have to offer lower prices.

According to the Central Bank, for next year a gradual recovery in this sector is expected, which would be strongly linked to progressivity in opening measures not only at the local level, but also at the international level, where much depends on the blow of the second pandemic wave that some nations in Europe are already experiencing.

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