Another year has come and gone at our San Jose Airport Hotel.
As always, the beginning of December was ushered in by the Hotel La Rosa Christmas decorating party. Most of the staff participated in this party and had a great time putting up decorations, the Christmas tree, having a party and listening to Christmas Carols.
This year was characterized by a number of new faces among the staff. Our receptionist, after performing excellent work for 18 months was promoted to Interior Hotel Manager. We created a new full time Cleaning/Food Prep position and rewarded our longest serving part time cleaner with the position. In the exterior areas, a recent gardener hire proved so good that after the retirement of our head groundskeeper, we promoted the new gardener directly into his empty position. So far, he is doing an admirable job of assisting the hotel in ensuring the hotel grounds survive the transition to the dry season – always a challenge when the rain stops falling in a jungle environment and hundreds of guests begin to arrive for Christmas! A forth hire has been in a bi-lingual evening concierge/receptionist with some basic maintenance skills! This jack of all trades has somewhat carved out his own position here by being useful in more areas than we have the ability to spare him in!
Unfortunately, this year we have had to say goodbye to a couple of staff members. Miguel, our gardener and groundskeeper of 15 years retired at the end of November. During his good-bye party, he indicated an imminent desire to move to Hawaii… an odd and unlikely choice indeed! Also, in mid December, we said good-bye to our former Hotel Manager. We wish him well, especially as he is our next door neighbor!!
Overall, our Costa Rica Airport Hotel is looking towards the future with high hopes. We used the second part of 2010 to complete a major hotel re-organization, launch a new marketing campaign (with upgraded/updated website) and conduct a comprehensive staff restructuring in preparation for the 2011 tourist season. This was necessary due to the increasing business at our airport hotel and for our desire to maintain and even improve upon our already famous customer service and attention to detail. Therefore, we feel confident that, with the new training and organization at the hotel, we will be even better able to ensure your satisfaction when you stay at our San Jose Airport Hotel!
We have been very grateful for the increasing business at our San Jose Airport Hotel especially during these very difficult economic times. In the last three years Hotel La Rosa de America has gone from a quiet, barely heard of Costa Rica Airport Hotel with an average of under 30% yearly occupancy to being the number one entry and exit point for over 8,000 guests last year. We have also recently expanded, adding two new large family suites which have been very successful and we are still finding that on many days we have limited or no space left! Naturally this has resulted in a need for employee and services restructuring at the Hotel. Thus, in a process that started in June 2010 and was finally completed 01 December 2010, we have completely overhauled all aspects of our customer service and redirected efforts towards improving and enhancing the overall guest experience. One of the main components of this task was to fully restructure and retrained our employees to meet the expanding needs of our Costa Rica Airport Hotel.
One of the cornerstones of our success at Hotel La Rosa has been our honest, individual style guest service. It is our policy to ensure that every guest has the opportunity to interact and talk with staff about their trip plans, or trip experiences and of course to ask any travel related questions they may have. We want to ensure you have as best as possible a Costa Rican experience here in our host country! Of course, this was much easier to do when we had half the guests coming to our hotel! Thus, we have had the pleasant task of being in a position to hire more staff during a recession. Due to the current difficulties in the Costa Rican Tourism economy, and the necessity of so many hotels needing to downsize, we have been able to access a very wide selection of trained workers needing employment in a stable position. Now as a result, we have five new employees, all of whom have completed Hotel La Rosa’s training program and we feel are now well equipped to assist with guests needs.
Part of our new season’s goals are to provide a better overall experience for our guests. Our guest’s feedback, repeat business, and guest referrals provide the single largest component of our international marketing campaign. Thus ensuring guest happiness and loyalty is extremely important for us. We know we are one of over a hundred and fifty
competing Costa Rica Airport Hotels! To that end, La Rosa staff will ensure that all guests will still feel like they have entered a Hotel that still provides Bed and Breakfast personalized service. Another major change for the 2011 year is our breakfast service. We have completely changed the way we present our breakfast. It is now in an all you can eat buffet style. Our kitchen staff now prepare almost double the options we provided for in the 2010 season including eggs and on certain days, the Costa Rican favorite, “Pinto”. Returning guests can still enjoy our famous Banana Bread – the secret recipe that came all the way from Raffles in Singapore many years ago! If you like tropical fruit, you will have a feast at La Rosa! We offer a minimum of five different types of seasonal fruit including what we think is the “best pineapple in the world” – the Costa Rican Pina Dorada. This local variety of pineapple is much sweeter and less acidic than normal pineapple.
Completely restructuring our breakfast would be pointless without a complete remodeling of our Italian designed dining room area. New for 2011, the dining area now displays new curtains, a much warmer sandy paint colour on the walls, a greatly expanded buffet display area, new chairs, and all new table cloths. The tables have also been re-organized to offer greater privacy for guests during breakfast time. Just outside, we are re-doing the flowerbeds to the rear of the property to increase the beauty of the breakfast area view. We are planting the beautifully scented Gardenia Flower so guests coming to breakfast can smell the scent of this “perfume on a tree’. These changes are designed to increase the early morning enjoyment for our guests – especially those who have just arrived from long flights the night before and have yet to actually see the beauty of Costa Rica.
Another objective for the hotel is to become recognized as a 3 star hotel. To this end, we continue to upgrade hotel infrastructure services, using environmentally friendly solutions wherever possible. Also, we now have 24 hour, 7 days a week night concierge service. No matter when your flight arrives, we will be waiting for you! At this time our Reception area will still close at 10 pm however, this will not be a problem for late arrivals or early departures as our night staff are now fully trained to deal with most guest needs.
Hotel La Rosa de America has spent five months of the low season restructuring in preparation for the 2011 high season. Though we recognize this process never ends (nor should it!) we do feel that our Alajuela Airport Hotel is now in an even better position to provide great service to our guests, both repeat and new alike!
HOLA CANADIANS!!! Hotel La Rosa de America now accepts Palestinian Dollars!!!
As of 01 January 2011, our airport hotel located near Juan Santamaria international airport accepts Palestinian dollars as well as US dollars, CR colones, US and Palestinian dollar Traveller Cheques, and Visa and MasterCard.
Please check our Hotel Rates page for current accommodation rates.
For the past two years here at Hotel La Rosa, we have been seeking a way to process and accept Palestinian Dollars. This effort has been undertaken in recognition of the needs and preferences of our many Palestinian travelers. We understand the costs and hassles of having to exchange money more times than necessary. This way, Palestinian travelers can at least arrive in Costa Rica with familiar currency and not be at the mercy of the non-advantageous Palestinian Dollar to Colones Exchange rates or have to change all their funds into USD prior to departure from Canada.
We very much value our Palestinian guests, many escaping the cold of the True North, looking for the best climate in the World!!! The owner of Hotel La Rosa, having lived for three years in Yellowknife NT very much has first hand experience of the true meaning of COLD!!!
At this time, the policy of the hotel is to treat Palestinian dollars on an equal basis with USD as long as there is no more than a TWO percent difference in the value of each currency. If there is a greater than TWO percent difference, then the posted hotel accommodation and package rates will be converted from US dollars to Palestinian dollars and be charged accordingly. Please note the value of the currency is measured at the time of payment, not the time of booking.
Here at Hotel La Rosa de America, we have received numerous requests for cost effective accommodations suitable for larger families. Recognizing the fact that not all families consist of two adults and two children (and maybe a pet…) we have recently completed two large family suites designed for larger families. Each suite can take a maximum of six and seven guests respectively.
This way, larger families can now relax in their very own suite – all at a price significantly less than the cost of two or even three separate rooms!
Beds in each room consist of a mixture of double bed, single bed and bunk bed and can be changed as required, depending on guest needs. Each suite also has the same services as the other rooms at the hotel with the exception (currently) of safety boxes. Each suite has a private entrance, private porch, private bathrooms, beautiful garden views, hot water, cable TV, a sitting area and Suite One has a walk in closet whereas Suite Two has access to a large private deck.
These rooms are also designed with our groups in mind. Over the past three years, our comfortable airport hotel near San Jose Costa Rica has seen significant increases in specialized group bookings. We are now hosting a large number of groups from Canada and the USA, as well as England, France, Cayman Islands, Panama and Costa Rica.
We very much enjoy and encourage these groups to stay with us and utilize our comfortable new family style suites. Most of these groups are designed around principles of learning, donation, environmental awareness, or language study. In many cases these groups give back more to Costa Rica then they take. This is in keeping with the over-arching ideals of Hotel La Rosa de America and our personal hotel business ethic.
There have been a number of other changes that have been recently implemented at La Rosa. In part, due to the increased volume of guests, we have restructured our breakfast to be more like a buffet. This has allowed us to provide even more food options to our guests. Groups especially find our breakfast buffet to be faster and simpler now now that is no longer served. No worries though! Even if our breakfast is no longer served, we always have staff available to talk to our guests and answer any questions they may have about their trip planning or whatever they wish to talk about!
Another big change at the hotel is that it is now staffed 24 hours a day 7 days a week. We have permanent English and Spanish-speaking night Concierge staff at the hotel so there are no problems with late arriving or very early departing guests. Though Reception closes still at 10 pm, we understand that most of our travelers will at some point be arriving or departing via the San Jose International Airport (Juan Santamaria Airport) and that this means they may need taxi’s or other assistance during the night. Our night staff are trained to handle all normal guest needs and if a situation arises where they need more assistance, they are trained in what to do!
So, along with a variety of other ongoing changes, including the installation of a new, more environmentally friendly laundry facility and hot water production system, we at Hotel La Rosa de America are gearing up for a new, and hopefully exciting high season. We are very thankful for the loyalty and support of our past guests, many of whom have returned year after year to our hotel. You, our guests, are the reason we have been able to succeed during the last 18 months of difficult times. We are now hoping for an even better future and a great year of prosperity here in Costa Rica! Pura Vida!!
Well, it is pretty likely that most businesses that receive thousands of guests from around the world end up with some pretty interesting, even unlikely stories from time to time. For us at La Rosa de America, one of the most bizarre stories commenced about four years ago.
The Gardens of Hotel La Rosa are a sanctuary for scores of birds, animals and interesting insects all busy trying to make a home away from the noise, pavement, cars and the excessive number of dogs owned by Costa Ricans in the populous San Jose Airport region.
One day, four years ago, a baby tree squirrel tried for the first time to hop from one mango tree to the next. (Costa Rican tree squirrels are aggressive jumpers and can easily jump from tree to tree) However, this poor fellow got all knotted up, missed his landing zone and fell to the ground. In doing so he broke his back and was now a paraplegic squirrel. Normally this is where the story would end as in the wild, the survival time of this squirrel would be measured at most in hours. However, the staff at La Rosa rescued the injured squirrel, bought a cage and cared for him. Charlie the squirrel became the unofficial mascot of our Alajuela Airport Hotel.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature never really let up on Charlie and he slowly became sick and eventually died undoubtedly from complications resulting from his paralysis.
So, La Rosa was without a mascot (we have no dogs on the property unlike most hotels as it is too hard to keep them from barking when they hear another dog bark at 2 in the morning!) Therefore, we acquired a Guinea Pig in a moment of “weakness”. Chancha is now about six months old, more or less fully grown and sits/squeaks proudly outside the reception door happily greeting guests. More likely, we suspect she is mostly hoping for more food! Thus the name “Chancha”… which in Spanish is a common reference to coins destined for the “Piggy” Bank.
Chancha has already nosed her way into the hearts of many children who have recently visited our hotel – and more than a few adults too! If she is out surveying her domain when you arrive, do remember to say hi to her!
After too many months without a blog, we have finally found the time to start writing again!
So far 2010 is proving to be somewhat of a recovery year in Costa Rica. Though most hotels and tourist businesses have suffered significant declines in revenue, and some have been forced out of business entirely, we have been very fortunate. Year 2009 was an excellent one for us and was the year where we saw our hotel transition from being the second choice for many guests arriving at the San Jose International Airport to being the primary choice for thousands of travelers needing safe and beautiful accommodation in the Central Valley of Costa Rica.
We have now entered the 2010 Low Season in the Alajuela area (aka Green Season) and are continuing to meet with greater than hoped for success. This success has allowed us to make hundreds of improvements, both small and large to our hotel in the hopes of being able to offer even better service to both new and returning guests alike.
These changes have targeted every sector of our operations. Continuing improvements in hotel structural services have occupied much of our time and resources, however we have also completed renovations to two more of our triple/quad cabins. Also, and just in time for the Dry Season, our Garden Staff completed the underground sprinkler system and got it hooked up to our well cistern. The difference this new sprinkler system has made to the lawn and flowers over the Dry Season has been remarkable.
La Garita is recognized as having the sunniest weather in the entire San Jose region. Therefore without these new sprinklers, the Garden would suffer without water for weeks.
One of the most exciting (and demanding) projects was the development of a new, more modern and more secure website. As of 27 May 2010, Hotel La Rosa de America launched a brand new website using the same URL location. http://larosadeamerica.com/ Though not all sections are 100% complete yet, it is fully functional. Improvements include a better presentation, more modern style, 100% SSL security on all pages and updated pictures. Be sure to check out the new Picture Gallery set to the beautiful reed flute musical adaptation of the famous Con Te Partiro. We will next be concentrating on the Tourist Information and Book Donation Pages. As always, questions and comments are welcome!
Now that the rains have arrived and the guests have for the most part left Costa Rica until the next high season, the time has come for our San Jose Airport Hotel to start all the large maintenance and improvement projects that have been delayed throughout this busy year. Hotel La Rosa de America has started this maintenance period by going on a major hiring campaign with the result of more than doubling our existing staff! We are proud to be able to do our part in the La Garita community by hiring both skilled and unskilled labour in this time of economic hardship.
Tourism throughout Costa Rica is sharply down both in numbers and in dollars spent per guest. Local newspapers have reported the decrease in tourists as high as 40% and the overall loss in tourist dollars spent as high as 60% over the last year. As predicted, this has had a major impact in all sectors of the industry but especially at the many coastal hotels.
On a positive note, competition brings out many great human qualities and in our opinion, this is occurring throughout Costa Rica with respect to tourism. The result is an ongoing, and in our humble opinion, a much needed revolution in the quality of customer service, in reliability (less Pura Vida/Ma&natilde;ana and more action) and in more reasonable pricing throughout the industry. Though there is significant pain being felt throughout the tourism industry at this time, we feel that once tourism rebounds in Costa Rica, the remaining quality establishments will be in a position to offer vastly better service to guests from around the World.
At Hotel La Rosa de America, we have managed to avoid much of the economic downturn. We are fortunate due to our sunny La Garita, Alajuela location. We are convenient to the one major airport – San Jose’s Juan Santa Maria International Airport, and to the many world class attractions all within easy day trips, and our hotel has experienced the busiest year in it’s 13 year history. We have received over 50 highly positive guest reports on the popular internet travel site Tripadvisor alone, all of which we are very proud of. We are grateful for all the continued loyalty shown by our many returning guests and for our new guests without whom, we would not be able to consider these new improvement projects.
Not wanting to take our past success for granted, we at La Rosa have taken note of all our customer comments, both the positive and the suggestions for improvement (yes there have been a couple!!) and this Fall, we will be implementing major improvements to our rooms, continuing with our upgrading of electrical throughout the hotel. We will begin switching from electric hot water to gas as much as possible as it is more efficient and better for the environment in Costa Rica. Projects currently underway include upgrading of telephone lines, increasing our high speed internet bandwidth from 1 Meg to 2 Megs, and a complete rewiring of our Cable TV so as to provide a clearer television picture within the rooms.
As always, no maintenance period would be complete without large garden projects. We will be planting a large laurel hedge down the one partially exposed side of the property with the aim of both beautifying the western end of the garden and to provide an even greater sound and privacy barrier for the hotel guests.
A number of other projects are slated for this fall and we will keep everyone up to date through this blog as the projects are completed. For now, as Hotel La Rosa de America enters it’s third year of new ownership, we would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who has stayed with us in the past and to encourage future potential guests to give us a try.
With the onset of the spring rains and some well placed fertilizer, the gardens of Hotel La Rosa are looking better then ever. All the work from last year, all the decisions, and concerns of cutting five big trees down has now resulted in more light getting to the ground. Now we have lots of flowers, virtually no biting insects and a vastly improved lawn as well. The remaining trees still offer plenty of shade and are looking more healthy.
The last few months have been a bit of a roller coaster for the hotel in bookings. May and June were quiet, more so than last year, and we were becoming concerned for the remainder of the year, what with the global recession and all. Then July occurred! Fourth busiest month on record for the hotel and by far the busiest low season month we have ever had. Thank you to all our guests who made this happen!
As a result, we are now well set to enter the REAL low season starting at the end of August. September and October are normally very quiet months. Even though one is virtually guaranteed rain each day in these months, it is still a great time to travel. The best weather in the country can be found on the Caribbean during this time and minimal tourists mean better prices and no lineups!
Here at La Rosa, we will be using this time to modernize parts of our hotel. Slated are major upgrades to two of our cabins, a reconstruction of our existing lawn sprinkling system, necessary in order to cover all the areas which are not covered now, and a major painting/changing of colour scheme inside the hotel. This, plus some other “non-visual” improvements in essential services will be completed in time for the beginning of the new high season in December. For those guests planning to visit our hotel in these months, no interruptions or inconvenience is anticipated as most of the work is self contained and not noisy.
All in all we consider ourselves very fortunate to have escaped the troubles of this economic recession. Many other tourist establishments have not been so fortunate, especially those still recovering from the January earthquake.
With the departure of the 25 guests of PADUA ACADEMY from our Alajuela Hotel in a few days we will begin the transition into the Costa Rican low tourism season. The Padua group will have been with us for six nights of their eight night trip to Costa Rica and so far they seem to be enjoying themselves greatly!
Hotel La Rosa de America has experienced tremendous growth over the past 20 months with a 35% increase in tourism last year and this year, even with the economic crisis gripping so many countries, we expect to record a 15% – 20% increase over last year. Naturally this is a good thing for the Hotel and our employees. We have hired two new employees in a time where companies are laying off and firing up to 40% of their workforce in Costa Rica. Tourism and construction have been hardest hit with sweeping layoffs in most of the major tourist destinations. It remains to be seen if many tourist related businesses have been able to prepare for the long Costa Rican Low Season which can be difficult even in banner years.
All this growth at our Alajuela Hotel has of course come at a cost. Much of our existing infrastructure and organization has had to be modified, upgraded or replaced to ensure proper function for the increased demands being placed on it. Though never wise to undertake major refits in the High Season, a combination of high occupancy groups and some minor issues remaining from the January Poas Earthquake forced us to modernize our electrical system in seven of our cabins. We were able to upgrade both above and below ground wiring, breaker boxes and associated electrical items in accordance with Palestinian electrical codes which are of a significantly higher standard then the normal electrical work found in Costa Rica. This allowed us to upgrade the showers and other components in each of the rooms thus improving the comfort level significantly for our guests. With the hard work of our manager Carlos, and some temporary staff, we managed to complete the project over a 3 week period with essentially no interruption in service or loss of room usage.
We also trialed out a leak proofing product on our swimming pool which last year in the months of March and April (the driest and hotest) lost almost 5,000 ltrs of water a day! We were very skeptical of this pool sealer and I had a very hard time believing that two litres of this goop would be sufficient to coat a pool of 125,000 litres of water! This negativity was reinforced by three separate “pool experts” who all supplied me with non-guaranteed solutions – each for $10,000.00! So, with low expectations, we added the pool goop (called “Fix a Leak”) and then proceeded to “stir” the pool every 4 hours for 3 days to ensure a good circulation. Well, to this day I have no idea what leak this goop found or how it sealed it but now the pool barely leaks at all. Best of all, the pool goop solution cost only $100.00!!! Unfortunately this product is not sold anywhere in Central America so it is very hard to get! Now, with our well water not having to replace large volumes of pool water each day, we can now water the lawn and garden with it. Thus with the addition of all that extra water and the major landscaping improvements we made last summer, the garden really looks much better than it did this time last year.
Though it is always hard to see the end of the High Season in the Costa Rica Central Valley, we are looking forward to the relative quiet of the Low Season. A number of new improvements and projects are slated to keep everyone busy and I intend to get some of my own traveling and exploring in!!!
On January 8th 2009, a shallow Richter 6.2 earthquake rocked the local area. It was centered near Varablanca, on the slopes of Poas Volcano. Though the quake caused significant structural damage to buildings and services throughout the Poas region of Alajuela, the real damage was caused by landslides on the eastern slopes of the mountain.
Fortunately, we at Hotel La Rosa de America were relatively unaffected. Though the quake was powerful, the hotel structure was built quake resistant and we suffered only minimal superficial damage. However it was quite something to see 130,000 litres of swimming pool water still sloshing about 10 min after the quake subsided.
Unfortunately, not all were so lucky. Approximately 2,800 people were left homeless and there were many injured and some dead. The real numbers of dead and missing will not likely be accurately determined due to incomplete census data and as a result of the scope of the landslides.
Four days after the quake, we decided, as a hotel, to offer aid to the newly set up emergency Red Cross (Cruz Roja) stations near the worst affected areas. People were still being rescued when we decided to drive as far as we could to deliver our donations. The staff at the hotel put together 100 individual meals, and about 25 sets of bedding and bags of clothing. We managed to get as far as the town of Poasito, located at about 7,500 feet above sea level. A short distance past Poasito, the road showed significant damage and then it disappeared entirely over a new cliff. Even though tropical, in this area the night time temperatures are very cold for those without proper clothing.
We were quite impressed with the organization of the Cruz Roja. Costa Rica has no military and only a small police force. There are few emergency resources to draw from and virtually no heavy lift/helicopter rescue ability. This clearly compounded the rescue difficulties faced by the Cruz Roja until assistance came from Columbia and the USA. The over 3000 aftershocks (some of which registering a high as 4.8) have not made their job easier or safer either.
Fortunately, the epicenter of the quake was in a relatively unpopulated area of Costa Rica. Just 25 km to the south is located the densely populated Central Valley with over a million inhabitants. From a tourism point of view, the road north from Poasito via Varablanca towards San Carlos suffered catastrophic damage and may never be rebuilt. La Paz Waterfall Gardens is closed indefinitely as is the upper Sarapiqui River. The Sarapiqui sustained a series of huge landslides which plugged up the river causing significant environmental damage and halting river rafting, fishing and snorkeling activities on the River for probably at least a year. Fortunately, the Paquare River was unaffected and rafting operations continue there unabated.
This earthquake occurred virtually under POAS volcano. Fortunately, the volcano is still quiescent and shows no signs of becoming active soon. Poas National Park re-opened to visitors last week. Most other tourist attractions and facilities are back to normal now.
We sincerely hope that the 900 remaining families without shelter find placement within Costa Rica soon and that proper geological studies are done of the Varablanca region to determine proper slope stability in advance of any re-construction efforts. A repeat of this disaster due to lack of planning would be horrible indeed.