Hoteliers and Platforms Compete to Accommodate More Than 3 Million Tourists a Year in Costa Rica

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    Hoteliers and non-traditional accommodations like Airbnb are in the middle of an open war for the dollars spent by 3 million foreign tourists on accommodation each year.

    To this, we should add the growing predilection of Ticos to stay in small villas, houses and cabins at a cheaper cost, far from hotels, which has revitalized national tourism.

    For hoteliers, this is unfair competition in terms of prices and they are calling for more regulations to level the playing field. And non-traditional accommodation does not pay municipal license fees, nor does it have permits from the Ministry of Health, while in some cases it does not pay social security contributions for the staff.

    Likewise, electricity and water services are charged as residential and not commercial, leaving the country without millions of colones, highlighted Flora Ayud, executive director of the Costa Rican Chamber of Hotels.

    That is why hoteliers have asked deputies to establish by law a minimum stay of 6 days for tourists in non-traditional accommodations, regardless of whether they are Costa Rican or foreign tourists.

    They also ask for more safety regulations

    This would directly impact all local tourism, which usually takes weekend getaways or fewer days than requested by the Costa Rican Chamber of Hotels. In that sense, representatives of non-traditional accommodations such as Airbnb defend their business style and point out that it is a totally different alternative and reject accusations of unfair competition.

    The figure for how many accommodations of this type varies; In Taxation, there are more than 5 thousand, but only 634 are registered in the ICT. In the country there is not only Airbnb, but many other platforms that provide these vacation alternatives.

    An open conflict

    “We want to lower the tone that there is an open war. I was in Costa Rica last week and I met with the Chamber of Hotels and with Canatur, we have had a memorandum of understanding for some time and we have been in continuous communication. No, we are opposing regulatory and tax issues, we want both businesses to grow in the country and for a positive policy to be built,” said Carlos Muñoz, director of Public Policies and Communications at Airbnb for Central America and the Caribbean.

    40% of Airbnb reservations correspond to domestic tourism, while 49% of the hosts are women and 16% are people who declare themselves senior citizens, which constitutes extra income for families.

    What do you think of the project that seeks to impose a six-day minimum stay?

    “It would certainly significantly limit consumers and visitors’ flexibility as they seek to plan their trips. Both domestic and foreign tourists look for shorter stays at each accommodation, which allows them to explore various destinations or adjust their plans according to specific itineraries,” he said.

    For its part, the Association of Non-Traditional Lodging Providers led by Joaquín Jiménez Rodríguez also expressed its strong rejection of the initiative and said that it poses a serious threat to tourist activity.

    “We are urgently calling on deputies to consider the strong negative impact, both economic and social, that this proposal would entail, and to reject it forcefully,” Jiménez said.

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