TAMARINDO, Costa Rica, (Reuters) – Once-bustling construction sites on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast are lying silent as a real estate boom fueled by tourists and U.S. expatriates slumps due to the global financial crisis.
At a dozen building sites around the picturesque Tamarindo resort town, where workers once crawled up and down hulking concrete structures, now only security guards stand vigil in the midday tropical sun.
The site is part of a series of beaches known as Costa Rica’s “Gold Coast,” which became one of Central America’s hottest property spots when a local airport began handling international flights six years ago.
Now the beach, normally crowded at this time of year, Costa Rica’s busiest tourist season, is half empty as cash-strapped travelers opt to stay at home.
Tourism is Costa Rica’s No. 1 source of foreign exchange earnings, so any dip can have a major economic impact on the country, also known for its eco-lodges in tropical jungles. “We didn’t expect this to happen, no one saw the crisis coming,” said developer Guillermo Cubas, whose six-unit Brisas del Monte condominium stands idle.
Cubas’ bank cut off his credit line last year when Costa Rica’s banking system suffered a liquidity shortfall amid the turmoil in global markets. Guanacaste province, where Tamarindo is located, is reporting a drop of nearly a third in hotel occupancy rates for the first two months of 2009 compared to 2008, according to Pablo Solano, the head of the national hotel chamber.