Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Overbuild It And They Don't Come

I think the Copan hotel owners misheard the quote from the movie "Field of Dreams".

In the movie, Ray Liotta, playing Shoeless Joe Jackson said "If you build it, he will come", which has often been misquoted as "If you build it, they will come."

The hotel owners in Copan Ruinas seem to have taken this to heart, building hotels to offer today some 1500 beds. If one bed is equal to 1 visitor for one night, then that's the equivalent of a built environment for 547,500 visitors per year (365 * 1500)!

Now the reality is that they are experiencing something like a 35-40% occupancy rate (it varies depending on the month) in Copan Ruinas, according to CANATURH data. Using the 40% occupancy rate, that means at best about 219,000 visitor nights actually are being passed in Copan Ruinas.

But that doesn't mean 219,000 visitors.

Individual visitors usually stay more than one night. The average stay reported in 2010 was 2.7 days, stays that would require two nights in a hotel.

That yields an estimate of around 109,500 visitors per year. That's a pretty good match to the actual reported visitor numbers for the last few years.

Not anywhere near the capacity of hotel rooms in the town, which would support 273,750 visitors spending the average 2 nights.

And nowhere near the 300,000 projected visitors wistfully contemplated in tourism stories promoting the celebration of the Maya calendar cycle ending in 2012. Who, if they actually materialized, would presumably have to double up in some of those currently under-utilized hotel rooms.

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