The closure of borders in Costa Rica for foreigners that began in March 19, brought the off season in Nosara – which begins in September – six months in advance, causing hotel closings and large economic losses, according to estimates of the hotel businesses in the area.
Although there are no definitive estimates yet, losses for large district hotels such as Largarta Lodge and The Harmony Hotel are estimated to be between $ 100,000 to $200.000 per month, managers confirm to La Voz.
The manager of Lagarta Lodge, Alonso Bermúdez, states that since the announcement of the first case of COVID-19 in Costa Rica on March 6, the hotel went from 100% occupancy to a 40%.
This numbers, Bermúdez calculates, will drop significantly in the coming weeks because after the closing of the borders, most reservations have been changed for future dates or totally canceled.
The general manager of the Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia, César Jaramillo, estimated that due to the closure of the borders the airport would stop receiving 95% of international flights.
“Nosara is characterized by having 90% of foreign visitors.” Is the same situation for the hotel. It may be that we do not have any customers next week. We are at a time where we do not know what will happen, ” Bermúdez said.
The Harmony Hotel, meanwhile, suspended operations on Friday, March 20. Its general manager, Estuardo Valle, said that they decided to close all services to not “promote vacations during the crisis and not expose their collaborators to possible contagions.”
The manager emphasized that, for the moment, the hotel will not fire any workers and there will also be no salary cuts, including temporary contracts. In other words, even though they were all sent to stay at home, they will continue receiving the same salary.
Between January and May, the hotel receives around 80-100 clients daily. When they closed it only had 9 guests.
“As many people have moved stays, but have not canceled, the money is always there. At Harmony the guest pays in advance, so we tell them they can use the credit whenever they want, no an specific date. So we have not seen the direct drop. Of course, we are not receiving reservations and this will be a problem in the near future, ” Valle said.
It is exactly the “postpone and don’t cancel” model that the National Ecotourism Chamber (CANAECO) is recommending to tourists, in the face of the crisis.
“We invite the Costa Rican population not to cancel their trip and instead postpone it, in order to collaborate with a speedy recovery to one of the most important industries of the country, and to those who depend directly or indirectly on it”, The executive director of the Chamber, Dayana Hernández, emphasized in a statement.
Small hostels live “season zero”
The outlook for small businesses is even more hopeless. Both the Burnt Toast Surfcamp, near Playa Pelada, and Cabinas Aggnel, in central Nosara, maintain a zero number of clients since the announcement of the border closure on March 16.
Both family businesses agree that the virus crisis left them in what they call a “zero season.”
The Burnt Toast, for example, closed all its operations since last Monday, anticipating the arrival of national tourists to its facilities.
“We cannot avoid that people come thinking that these are vacations, but we can prevent them from being close to us,” one of its owners said, Jeremy Alvarado.
For their part, the Aggnel Cabins still open. However, they have not received any guests for a week and a half, the owner Zeyda López, said.
“We are really worried because this is our only business, we eat from this. We have never seen so few people arriving at the cabins, less on these dates. We have tried to contact the ICT, but to date they haven’t say anything, ” López said.
The ICT reported since Monday that they are creating plans to support the hotels affected by COVID-19, however they have not announced specific ideas about it.
“I have to say to the sector: we are going to help to mitigate this very difficult situation,” said Minister María Amalia Revelo at the time.
Temporary contract layoffs are a possibility
The National Chamber of Tourism (Canatur) reported more than 1,000 layoffs in Guanacaste last Wednesday.
In Nosara, large companies have not yet carried out massive layoffs, however they will consider the option based on economic results in the coming weeks.
“Normally the hotel is staffed by peak occupancy. Therefore, it is possible that we are going to have to fire. We still do not have a final number, but the layoffs would be only for high season staff, those who are on temporary contracts, ” the manager of Lagarta Lodge confirmed.
Valle, from Harmony, said that “at least this month,” all staff will continue to receive the same salary, despite not being working.
“We have considered layoffs, of course. But for now we are implementing sending people on vacation or with accumulated days off. We communicated to our workers the situation, so they are aware in case we need to take other decisions, “said the manager.
Due to the “zero season” the Aggnel Cabins currently operate only with two workers, including the owner, of five who are normally.
“If the crisis continues we will have to close, because it is more expensive than nothing. We have already reduced salaries and energy, but things are getting worse ”, regretted the owner.