Costa Rica has very pronounced tourism seasons. Christmas vacation through spring break is the high season with high occupancy (and rates) across the country. And then comes the low season (we like to call it the green season), and hotel occupancies drop sharply. This is especially true for Guanacaste that attracts more of a sun and beach type tourism. The rest of the country has more of a focus on wildlife and nature.
In many hotels and resorts employees get laid off in late April or early May. In some cases up to 50% off the staff. In the best case, they go on an “unpaid holiday” and come back to work in mid-December. This is typical for many seasonal destinations in the world, but a real problem creating unemployment, underemployment and economic instability in rural areas for Costa Rica. The same thing as in Costa Rica, also happens in Nicaragua.
At the Cayuga Collection of Sustainable Luxury Hotels and Resorts, we have never liked this policy and since our first year of operation have opted to provide year round employment to all of our staff. While at first sight, this might not be the most sensible business decision, we believe that it does make a lot of sense and it is the right thing to do. Here is why…
- We work with the local staff. In many cases, their educational level and skills are not that great when they start with us. It takes us a lot of time, effort and resources to train them. Why would we want to let them go after all that we have invested in them?
- The months of lower occupancy is a great opportunity for our staff to engage in training. This happens at the hotels or in cross training between the different hotels, resorts and lodges. Don’t be surprised to see a reservations agent from Arenas del Mar at Latitude 10 or the healing center coordinator from the Harmony Hotel at Jicaro Lodge in Nicaragua.
- This is the time when we do maintenance at the hotels. Lots of cleaning, sanding, varnishing, fixing things or building new things. All hands on board. Everybody helps and pitches in. You would be surprised to see some of the skills that some of our waiters or kitchen staff at Lapa Rios in maintenance. Actually, some of them were promoted to their current positions out of maintenance.
- By keeping all the staff, we assure the same level of high quality service every month of the year. And in some of our hotels, we run occupancy around 70 to 80% even in low season so we really need all of our staff year around. Kura Design Villas in Uvita is very popular with honeymooners in the months of May through September.
- Our employees become guests. During the lower demand periods, we invite our staff to bring their families to the hotels or eco lodges and experience the place they work from a guest perspective. They get treated like real guests by their peers, eat in the restaurants, go on tours and sleep in the luxurious beds.
- It is just the right thing to do. We put ourselves in the shoes of our staff that have financial obligations no matter if it is high or low season. So we have made this commitment and we stand by it. Even if it is a bit tough some months of the year (especially September and October). After all, it is about sustainability.
If you want to be a sustainable traveler. Considering traveling during the times of the year with less demand. Read here about peak season travel and its impacts.
By the way, here are The Cayuga Collection green season values for this year. There are some real attractive savings and you support our staff’s employment for the next months. They will thank you for it.