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Atlantic coast: The sector that was the big loser this summer

The situation of the hotel business on the Atlantic coast is worrying Credit: Mauro V. Rizzi

The summer season did not attract the huge flow of tourists who usually come to take a break in the seaside resorts of the Atlantic coast. The coronavirus pandemic and the threat of a second wave of infections made many decide not to travel. In Mar del Plata, the hotel situation is worrying, according to sources consulted by THE NATION: the reserves are very few and they expect a collapse starting tomorrow, although they believe that they will rebound again around next weekend. In PinamarAlthough the situation is a little better, the level of occupancy, at least in the hotel industry, is far from the figures that were reached in previous seasons.

This extra-long weekend in December returned to Mar del Plata something of the postcard that is typical of the date on these coasts, with well-attended beaches, restaurants with a good demand rhythm and bars with lines, waiting for their turn to get a table. This Sunday there was sun in bulk, the maximum temperature exceeded 35 ° and the spas were also reactivated with rental of tents and umbrellas. But that dream photo hides the bad moment of a sector hit like no other in the tourism industry during these months of pandemic and season: the hotel industry. Until today, only between 30 and 40% of the rooms were occupied.

In Mar del Plata, until today only between 30 and 40% of the hotel rooms were occupied
In Mar del Plata, until today only between 30 and 40% of the hotel rooms were occupied Credit: Mauro V. Rizzi

The outlook is more worrisome if you look at the record of accommodation reservations for what is coming. Hopefully they are in the order of 20%, almost a third of what they had on the same date last year. In the range of four and five stars the best records are given.

“Our sector is the big loser in this context,” he told THE NATION the owner of the hotel Thunderer, Jesús Osorno, who is also vice president of the Gastronomic Hotel Business Association of Mar del Plata. Unlike other areas such as gastronomy or entertainment, they depend 100% on tourists. “Our clients do or do go through the route, the railroad terminal or the airport,” he details, to differentiate themselves from other items that can at least be fed – a little or a lot – from Mar del Plata consumption.

The drop in demand in the hotel industry is directly related to the pandemic and restrictions. Mar del Plata passes another rising curve of contagions and approaches 300 daily cases, a figure that triples those of the district at the beginning of December. A new peak is feared and perhaps a record – the current one is 477 positives in the same day – before the end of the fortnight, with the impact of the meetings for the end of the year holidays and those that in local or open air multiplied with tourism, beaches and nightlife. Until Saturday night the municipality recognized 2,599 patients in treatment for coronavirus.

Osorno highlights that the pricing policy did not finish either, which barely rose 20% compared to the previous summer. And they feel that they lost their ability to compete because the application of protocols restricts services that distinguished them, such as spas, swimming pools, gymnasiums and others that were mostly part of the offer of higher category establishments. “We raised the occupancy by 20% this long weekend, but today it is already beginning to fall,” he explained to THE NATION Over the check outs Sunday that are not offset by new income.

Mar del Plata
Mar del Plata Credit: Mauro V. Rizzi

It is also a sector that abounded in investment to comply with the protocols, both equipment and supplies and personnel, but has not yet found an answer in terms of customers. Even though they are demanding in each of the care guidelines: “We take care of our guests like breast-fed babies, we cannot expose ourselves to having infections because it would be tremendous,” admitted the head of a well-known three-star hotel who preferred anonymity.

The real estate sector is not much better. With a much higher offer of beds, it has only 35% of rented places, and to a large extent with a cut on this Sunday. Now we have to wait what the week ahead holds. The expectation is not good immediately – the weather is not good in these first days – and the illusion is focused on what comes after Three Kings Day, which is usually a milestone in tourist dynamics.

Miguel Ángel Donsini, president of the College of Auctioneers and Public Brokers of Mar del Plata and Miramar, confirmed to LA NACION that the situation is difficult. “There are people who can vacation and do not come, and it is evident that they are waiting for a clearer scenario,” he said about this little movement of travelers for the time that it has the main summer destination in the country.

Sources of the sector consulted by this means also admit that they began to make prices more flexible, in search of adding clients from the economic opportunity. And they have also broken with customs and opened doors to clients who were not so welcome before.

“We had to rent to the young people, whom we avoided because you never know how many are coming or how they will leave the property when they leave,” explained a auctioneer, with rental properties in the southern zone.

The 18 to 30 age group weighs heavily this time in the volume of visitors. The batch of older adults, even the most fanatical about vacations on the coast, was reduced by this widespread fear of contagions.

The situation in Pinamar

In Pinamar, Pedro Marinovic, president of the Pinamar Hotel and Gastronomic Association, points out that the hotel industry did well the first long weekend in December, but that now the situation is not good, especially for two and three-star accommodations. “There are hotels that are between 25 and 40% occupancy. This New Year’s weekend it went up a bit, but it is not even close to what it was last year, when the mid and low range hotels had an occupancy of the 80% “.

Hotel occupancy in Mar del Plata and Pinamar is much lower than in previous years
Hotel occupancy in Mar del Plata and Pinamar is much lower than in previous years Source: LA NACION – Credit: Tomás Cuesta / Special Envoy

He further states that they are “very distressed”, as it is not a price problem. “We get offers all the time, the issue is that there is no demand. Historically, the two and three star hotels were occupied by the middle class, but now the middle class is very hit and the hotels are quite empty.”

According to the association that he presides, the city of Pinamar has an occupation of 57%, on average. This percentage is made up of the following figures: departments with services have an occupancy of 64%, hotels 55%, inns 47% and apart hotels 69%. While, in Ostende and Valeria del Mar, the average number of places occupied is also 57%. There, departments with services were the most chosen, with 81% occupancy, followed by cabins with 67%, apart hotels with 58%, hotels with 47% and inns only 15%.

In Cariló, the average occupancy, according to Marinovic, is 72%. 92.5% of the cabins are occupied, 77.5% of the serviced apartments, 68% of the apart hotels and 64% of the hotels.

Claudia Liscio, president of the Professional Center of Auctioneers and Public Brokers of the Pinamar Party, points out that, regarding the rental of houses, the situation in Cariló is totally different. “In January there is practically a 95% occupancy in the houses, in fact, they continue to ask but many are occupied by their owners. We had a lot of demand for houses with a pool because people seek to take care of themselves,” says Liscio.

Juan Ibarguren, Secretary of Tourism and Economic Development of Pinamar, describes that December has been a very special month. “Our tourist observatory revealed a real estate occupancy of up to 85% in Cariló and almost 70% in Pinamar. And in hotels the values ​​are similar depending on the category. Regarding the real estate sector, it remained very strong during the month of December and we estimate that it will continue in this way during the rest of the season. There was a trend of occupation of non-resident owners causing a reduction in the supply accompanied by high demand “.

In turn, he adds that the strategy of the extended season reassures them regarding the month of January, February and March, as they also hope that the season will continue and that they will not have to cancel it due to cases of coronavirus. “We estimate a reasonable occupation for a long period of time. Regarding the rumors of the closing of the season, we consider it a delusion at the tourist level since for the Pinamar Party it is our only economic activity that generates employment,” says the official.

In the municipality there are 196 active cases of coronavirus and another 34 under study. There are also 374 people isolated for having had close contact. In total, 30 people have died in the pandemic so far. They fear that with the influx of tourists the situation will get worse. The Ministry of Health of the province of Buenos Aires announced that there could be restrictions.

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