View Full Version : End-Of-Year Hotel/Resort Report

03-22-2016, 05:49 PM
We just finished our end-of-year reports for this "Year." To make the situation clear, our "Year", under our current policy, runs from April 1 to March 31. My boss is eager to get these reports as soon as he can, as our High Season is winding down. Easter came early this year (this coming Sunday), and our High Season is usually completely done by the time that Semana Santa hits. We finished a little early this year, due to the timing of Semana Santa.

Unfortunately, I cant' share about 85% of the information in our reports, which is confidential, but I always like to share whatever I can with anyone who is truly interested. I'm a little busy entertaining family for this holiday week, so I'll be posting whatever I am allowed to post, in small chunks, over the next few days. If you're interested, read on. If you're not interested, then right now would be the ideal time for you to stop reading this post.


The most interesting report this year was our annual Hotel/Resort Report. Even after I discard the 85% that I cannot post online, there are still a Lot of tasty information tidbits in this year's report. I'll probably make at least 4 or 5 posts based on that report alone. Most details, such as actual numbers, will be reasonably accurate approximations. I am not allowed to post precise data, but I can post the basic facts. Nothing changes the nature of the information. For Example, instead of "642", I might say "over 600", and instead of "Bob's Beach Hotel" I might say, "A popular Gringo-run hotel located in Playa Whatzit." You get the idea. With that understanding, here is the first gem from our 2015-2016 Hotel/Resort Report:

TripAdvisor: I might as well start with my least-favorite travel website. We started our "TripAdvisor Tracking Program" too late in 2014 to have a full year's data for 2014-2015, but we did have several months to practice and refine our system before the 2015-2016 Year began. So... this is the first year that our report has ever included a report on TripAdvisor in Costa Rica... and Oh Boy! is it a Doozie! Here is the data from that report, with my comments (for this post) enclosed in asterisks... *like this*

a) Average number of hotels, resorts and other publicly listed commercial lodging accommodation options listed for Costa Rica on TripAdvisor.com during 2015-2016: about 2350 *we search TripAdvisor at least 3 times per week, and count the total number of entries for hotels, resorts, B&Bs, hostels, etc. -- all types of lodging/accommodations; this number changes frequently, although it does not usually experience an abrupt/drastic change; typically, it might go up or down by a maximum of 1 or 2 percent in one month; using an average of over 100 searches throughout the year gives us a more stable, reliable, and accurate figure... So... about 2350 Hotels, Resorts, and other publicly listed commercial lodging options (from now on, I'm just going to say "lodgings") in Costa Rica for 2015-2106; that's a lot of lodgings for such a small country, isn't it? We'll get to that in a moment...*

*I could break this down by category of lodging (# of hotels, # of B&Bs, etc.), but TripAdvisor lets the venue owners themselves decide whether they are a hotel, B&B, or whatever... and that information is neither accurate nor reliable*

b) Number of lodgings visited and evaluated by me and my team during 2015-2016: about 2100 *that's about 90% of TripAdvisor's number... not bad for a team of 4 guys (including myself); that's an average of almost 1.5 lodging visits/evaluations per day, per person, although 2 of of the guys do more of the lodging visits than myself and the remaining guy; I probably average about 5 per week, although I tend to visit these places in waves... I might visit 20 lodgings in one week, and then not visit any for the next 2 weeks*


OK, that's the Basic Data, which sets us up for the Really Interesting Data. I'm not even going to comment on most of this data. In most cases, I'll just post the data, and let you draw your own conclusions. I think that you'll find this information to be quite enlightening.

Just to reiterate that Baseline Data... for the 2015-2016 Year, TripAdvisor listed about 2350 lodgings, and my team visited/evaluated about 2100 lodgings.

1) Number of Lodgings we visited that are not listed on TripAdvisor: about 390

2) Number of Lodgings listed on TripAdvisor which do not exist, and have never existed: about 170

3) Number of Lodgings listed on TripAdvisor which did once exist, but which closed/went out of business prior to the start of the 2015-2016 Year: about 125

4) Number of Lodgings listed on TripAdvisor which currently exist, but in a completely different manner than depicted on TripAdvisor: about 180 *this includes hotels which have been extensively remodeled, which now operate under another name, or which have been converted into another business (one hotel was converted into a Motorcycle Repair Shop about 3 years ago)*

5) Number of Lodgings listed on TripAdvisor which turned out to be someone's home, and are now listed on TripAdvisor as Lodgings, as a prank or out of sheer boredom: about 20

6) Number of Lodgings which either physically display on the premises, display on their websites or social media pages, or verbally attest that they have earned the following TripAdvisor Awards and/or certificates:
*we include all awards/certificates displayed without a date, and all awards/certificates displayed with a date of 2014, 2015, or 2016; several lodgings displayed multiple awards/certificates, and were counted in more than one of the
categories below; however, no lodging was counted more than once in each category*

a) Certificate of Excellence: about 1420 a1) Number of Lodgings which Admitted to obtaining the certificate from a source other than TripAdvisor, without properly qualifying for it (i.e. FAKE): about 85

b) Traveler's Choice: about 720 b1) Admitted Fakes (as above): about 120

c) Other Award/Certificate: about 380 c1) Admitted Fakes (as above): about 60

7) Number of Lodgings which admitted to offering perks to their guests for posting positive reviews on TripAdvisor: about 310

8) Number of reviews for Costa Rican Lodgings which we were able to positively verify as Fake, which were posted during the 2015-2016 Year: about 1770 *we consider a fake review to be any review -- either positive or negative -- which was posted by someone who was never a guest of the Lodging*

9) Number of those fake reviews which we were able to positively verify as having been posted by professionals who earn money by posting fake reviews and otherwise manipulating the TripAdvisor system, either to boost or damage a lodging's reputation or TripAdvisor rating: about 620


I've got a lot more info to share, but it's Semana Santa, and my girlfriend is threatening to behead me with her house key if I don't walk away from the computer right now. I'll post more info later...

03-22-2016, 09:57 PM
Part 2:

These are the conclusions reached by the team after several days of open discussions regarding our observations, impressions, and discussions with various people in the field (hotel owners, managers, staff, locals, tourists, etc.)

We try to be as objective as possible in our conclusions, but by its very nature, this section of our report contains some personal opinions and subjectivity. In this particular section of the report, that is welcomed to a certain degree, as this is where we really get a "feel" for specific locations, as well as general areas/regions. Here are the highlights of that section. I've "translated" the formal language of our report into casual speech, and have removed all the technical details and industry jargon, to make it a bit more straightforward and far less boring (I hope). These conclusions are the result of consensus within the team (a total of 4 people, including myself).


Costa Rica as a Whole: We continue to see a slow, steady increase in tourist traffic, particularly from the USA, due to the significant increase in International airline flight options and lower airfares between Costa Rica and the USA. This subject is addressed in much more detail in the 2015-2016 Transportation Report. *note: I'll post that information in a new thread sometime within the next few days.* The early occurrence of Semana Santa in 2016 has had a moderately negative, and definitely noticeable, effect on High Season/Spring Break traffic, particularly on the Pacific Coast, from Puerto Caldera south, all the way to Coronado (Palmar Sur). This early Semana Santa, in combination with the unrelated general, slow exodus from Provincia Puntarenas to the beaches of Guanacaste, has dealt the Puntarenas beaches a "double whammy" this year, resulting in an overall lackluster 2016 High Season for the Pacific Coast of Puntarenas. We do, however, caution against jumping to any drastic conclusions, keeping in the mind that this year's early Semana Santa is just an unfortunate quirk of the Catholic Calendar, which will Not be repeated in 2017. The unusual rain patterns of the 2015-2016 Year, while causing great concern among many Costa Rican Citizens and Residents, has not had an overall major impact on tourism within Costa Rica, as a whole.

San JosÚ: Tourism downtown continues to decrease at a slow but steady pace overall, as more tourists head to the Guanacaste beaches. Even tourists flying into SJO continue to lose interest in visiting San JosÚ. Every year, a larger percentage of SJO's tourist arrivals forego visiting San JosÚ, instead choosing to head North or West from SJO, towards the Pacific Coast, Poßs, La Paz, or San Ramon. The roads leading to those destinations, as well as traffic flow on those roads, continues to improve. Jacˇ can easily be reached from SJO in just over one hour, on most days. Meanwhile, it can still take 30 minutes or more to reach Downtown San JosÚ from SJO, when the traffic is heavy. More and more tourists arriving at SJO seem to be asking themselves, "I'm on Vacation. What is my incentive to head Away from the Beach, into San JosÚ?"

Alajuela: In a move that Alajuela should have made over 10 years ago, this mid-sized city/suburb of San JosÚ, which is located practically across the street from SJO's International Terminal, has been growing at a wildfire pace for the past 4 or 5 years. Located only one-half mile from the actual passenger entrance into the SJO terminal is Central America's largest indoor mall... City Mall. Right next to City Mall is yet another large indoor/outdoor mall, and right across the street from that is the large and modern-looking Hospital San Rafael. This tightly packed suburban enclave also contains a [Super] Walmart, a fairly new Hooters, business-class hotels, numerous office/light industrial buildings, and many other ubiquitous "Uptown/Suburban" structures and businesses. Every time you blink your eyes, something new has been added. It's not a question of whether or not this area will dwarf San Pedro, it's a question of whether or not it will dwarf San Pedro before the end of 2016. The entire team agrees... if someone is moving to Costa Rica and wants to live in an urban or dense suburban environment, Alajuela is where that person wants to be. You avoid most of San JosÚ's traffic, and getting to the beaches, San Carlos, and other popular leisure/vacation areas from Alajuela is tremendously less frustrating and takes significantly less time than traveling to those locations from San JosÚ.

When arriving passengers first step outside of SJO's International Terminal Building, the first thing that they see, looming directly in front of them, only one-quarter mile away, is the edge of this massive, modern complex of buildings, which looks more like Avenida Escaz˙ than San Pedro, and which definitely looks bigger and newer than both. Alajuela's upscale building boom mesmerizes many of those arriving passengers to the extent that they are all saying, "I'm sorry... San Jo What? Nah... I think I'll just walk over there (pointing at Hooters and City Mall). Although the highways and busy multi-lane city streets in this area are not at all friendly to pedestrian traffic, there are plenty of housing options in this area which are about a 5-minute walk from City Mall and Hooters, and less than a 15 minute walk from the entry into SJO's International Terminal. A taxi ride from City Mall, Hooters or the adjoining residential areas to SJO takes about 3 minutes.

In addition to siphoning itinerant tourist traffic away from San JosÚ with its superior, modern attractions... the team expects that Alajuela, within the next 2 or 3 years, will attract a relatively large contingent of Gringo expats, mostly concentrated along Alajuela's southeastern border and the edges of Radial Francisco, the large "spur" of Pista (Highway) #1 which connects Alajuela with SJO.

Manuel Antonio: While some venues have seen a major drop in business in the 2015-2016 High Season, as compared to last year's High Season, other venues in Manuel Antonio have not seen much falloff at all. Overall, however, tourist traffic in Manuel Antonio is experiencing a slow, steady decline which the team anticipates will not stop anytime soon. We do expect to see some rebound in tourist business next year because of the "Semana Santa Effect" this year. 2016's early Semana Santa was just an unfortunate stab in the back for Manuel Antonio's High Season expectations, and that knife was wielded by men who created a calendar and died over 2000 years ago.

Nevertheless, Guanacaste's Pacific Coast, which is littered with massive, modern, all-inclusive resorts -- many of which are located less than a 30-minute drive from the Liberia airport (LIR), continues to siphon tourist traffic away from the Puntarenas beaches, particularly Manuel Antonio.

Guanacaste (Pacific Coast, Golfo Papagayo): The hotels and resorts of Manuel Antonio just can't compete with all-inclusive Megaresorts such as Riu Guanacaste/Palace, Secrets, and many others... which, for rates as low as $80 per night, per person, will give you a junior suite, all the food and liquor you can stand, and pretty much anything else your heart desires. The quality, value, and extensive amenities of these places simply blows away the high-priced, nothing-at-all-included resorts and hotels of Manuel Antonio. In addition, the weather in Guanacaste is generally better, year-round (for tourists), than the weather in Manuel Antonio, and most of these huge resorts sit right on some of the best beaches in Costa Rica. Although we don't generally recommend such resorts to visitors, as they offer very little in the way of a genuine "Costa Rica Experience", there is no denying that many travelers, especially families, are intensely attracted by the overwhelming array of amenities offered, and the stress-free experience of never having to reach for a wallet during their entire stay/vacation.


OK, sports fans... I'll post some more tomorrow.

03-26-2016, 12:14 PM
A little bit more about the Beauty of the TripAdvisor business model...

Honestly... I am Jealous of TripAdvisor... I wish that I had thought of their scam, before they did.

Suppose that you have a problem with anything on the TripAdvisor website... reviews, ratings, whatever...

Here's the problem... does TA have a "Vetting" department, or a "Complaint" department?

NO! Not in the traditional sense. Here is how TA's complaint department works...

Do you have a complaint?

You must first obtain a form by emailing TA at an email address which is extremely difficult to find. Upon obtaining a copy of that form, you will discover that that form is only valid for the submission of very specific responses. For most other responses, you will need to use a form which is only available from another location. Sorry, but it is our policy to make it very difficult to find that location.

I DARE ALL OF YOU... Find a direct, one-on-one complaint department at TripAdvisor. It Doesn't EXIST! Why Not? Because TA is too busy LAUGHING -- at How Fucking STUPID You Are -- to answer the phones and the emails!

Your input is very important to TA, and we look forward to reading it... as long as it is presented in the appropriate format, using the correct form. < snicker... snicker... >

Actually... That's a lie. TripAdvisor doesn't give a shit about your complaint. We just want you to Go Away! We make Billions of Dollars every year from Ignorant Retards Like YOU! :)


On a side note...

I have received approval from my boss to begin posting fake reviews on TripAdvisor this year, starting on June 1. I expect to earn at least $30,000 per year from this activity. No one will ever notice the fake reviews... least of all, TripAdvisor. It's a ready-made Cash Cow.

03-30-2016, 06:37 PM
Back on Topic...

What are the "Up-and-Coming" destinations for the 2016-1017 Year?

The team sees a lot of untapped potential, as well as quite a few "old guard" establishments which are currently underutilized.

San JosÚ: The capital has definitely seen a substantial loss of tourist traffic and business, as stated earlier. However, there are a few stalwarts which have weathered the storm quite nicely, as well as a few new faces.

Revitalizing "The Gulch" is going to be a tough nut to crack. The Hotel Del Rey and Key Largo are definitely not what they once were, and other proud venues in the area have fallen upon hard times, as well. One potentially bright spot on the horizon is Taormina, which is the new name for the recently purchased Mona Lisa, now operating under new management. Early reports indicate a significant revival in the venue, particularly in the casino and poker room(s).

The Sportsmens Lodge has a large, strong, and loyal clientele which has stuck by it through the closing of Castillo, Papi's, "ESPN Zone", Morazon's Casino (temporarily), Horseshoe, and others... as well as the shake-ups at Little Havana/Scores/Zona II and Mona Lisa/Taormina. SL is still a strong venue with lots of entertainment to offer.

Along with the SL, Chubbs offers a great sports bar downtown, and one of the best "Gringo" bar menus in San JosÚ.

Downtown San JosÚ, as well as the western suburbs, definitely have tons of businesses which were built for the "bloat" of tourists and expats which has since emigrated out of the area. This means lots of potential bargains and better values for savvy travelers and tourists. It pays to check the websites of these and other venues often, for deals and specials.

03-30-2016, 09:18 PM
More Up-and-Coming and Underutilized destinations & venues...

Uvita Cloud Forest

The Cloud Forest above Uvita continues to be an "undiscovered" and underutilized destination. The major drawback of the area is that there is not much there to see or do, from the average tourist's point-of-view. Although not too difficult to access, resort locations are relatively remote, and require a 4-wheel drive vehicle with good clearance, power, and off-road capability. The resorts themselves will provide transportation, as well as secure parking for your vehicle in Uvita, but that increases your cost and further reduces your convenience factor. The best option for most people is to combine a domestic flight to Quepos or Palmar Sur with resort transportation. Plan to spend almost all of your time at the resort.

On the positive side, these resorts continue to provide 4-star-plus product and service in a discrete, personalized, low-occupancy atmosphere. The resorts in this area remain our top picks for the highest-quality luxury VIP experience in Costa Rica.

Background and Forecast: The Cloud Forest resorts of Uvita were built for a market that never arrived (or has yet to arrive, for the optimistic). Rooms, Suites, and Villas are seldom full. This translates into deep discounts and last-minute availability, even during the High Season. While still not cheap, rack rates are the exception rather than the norm. The failure of the Palmar Sur International Airport project, as well as the migration of tourism towards Guanacaste, has doomed this area to under-utilization for the foreseeable future. Lack of efficient accessibility is another major factor. Other than chartered helicopter transport, reaching the Cloud Forest resorts of Uvita usually requires at least 3 hours of travel time from downtown San JosÚ.

This area remains our top choice for adults-only (especially couples) who are looking for a romantic and/or relaxing vacation, and who value privacy, luxury, and/or VIP treatment... and who aren't dead-set upon staying at the beach.


My comments to Ticaland on this subject:

The principal Cloud Forest resorts of the area are 4-plus-star VIP resorts that can name-drop with the very best resorts in the world. I'll put it this way... The United States Secret Service is familiar with the area and the resorts. I don't usually put a lot of faith in a name, but when the names start to add up, there is one thing that 30-plus years of experience has taught me... 20 or more rich and/or famous people don't stay at a resort because it's cheap and shitty.

Yes... that means that these resorts are quite expensive. Minimum rack rates Begin at about $500 per night, and go up from there... but here's the rub...

This area suffers from a lack of traffic. A few high-end resort owners gambled on this area, and they gambled wrong. Deep pockets keep these resorts running, but they go half-empty (or completely empty) for most of the year. Resort staff almost always outnumbers the guests.

In an effort to keep the resorts operating -- not so much to make money, but to keep the staff working -- deep, Deep discounts are common. Suites and Villas that normally rent for $500 or more per night are often rented for $250 per night, or even less. That's still not cheap... but I can promise you that you've never spent as little as $250 per night on a place like these resorts. If you're up for taking a girl to one of these resorts and spending $1000 for 3 nights, it will be a trip that you'll never forget.

Resorts to check out in this area include...

premium resorts:

Rancho Pacifico

Kura Design Villas


Oxygen Jungle Villas

El Castillo (not in the Cloud Forest; close to beach)


Are they Girl-Friendly? If you show up with one "girlfriend", yes. They won't let you bring in a string of girls, though. These places are all discreet and privacy-oriented. You'll likely encounter a gay couple or two at your resort, seeking to escape any attention from the busier and larger resorts.