The iconic Torres de Manantiales hotel in the traditional Argentine beach resort of Mar del Plata is closing down due to a steady lack of guests resulting from sanitary restrictions which have corseted people's freedom of movement.
During 2020, hotel occupancy in Mar del Plata fell 68% compared to prepandemic times and neither the summer season nor the occasional long weekends have managed to bring some financial relief.
Along coastal resorts in Argentina, a total 70 hotels have been closed down in just four months.
The Torres de Manatiales complex will be reconverted into apartment and office spaces, it was announced. The 230 employees affected by the decision have been offered the appropriate severance payment.
During the last long weekend (July 9 -National Independence Day-, 10 and 11) occupancy averaged 20%; way below Mar del Plata's usual 30% during short breaks.
Manatiales is owned by former Media Secretary Hernán Lombardi under President Mauricio Macri (2015-2019).
In mid-June, Mar del Plata's Sheraton hotel made the same decision, but has not yet confirmed whether the facilities will be converted or sold.
The news of the closure of the Manantiales hotel was known through the workers. It closed its doors to tourism since Monday; they are not taking any more reservations, union leader Pablo Santín told the Noticias Argentinas agency. He added that the idea is to rent them as apartments for periods of 24 months.
According to Santín, of the 230 workers, between 75 and 85 carry out tasks all-year-round while the rest is summoned for seasonal peaks, but everyone is on the payroll, although there will be a significant staff downsizing.
The company told us that they will guarantee payment of all voluntary retirements, but that they will not force anyone to do so, but the issue is that with the new scheme, at most they could employ 15 people, he complained.
Mar del Plata's hotel structure is also going through what some analysts regard as a terminal crisis in case new restrictions are reinstated. The local City Council has announced the waiver of local taxes, but business owners claim that the property tax charged by the Province of Buenos Aires is a burden big enough under the present circumstances.
“The big numbers are in Province and Nation, because a 5-star hotel pays AR $ 16 million in real estate tax per year; a 4 star, AR $ 5 million or AR $ 6 million. They are numbers that are not being paid,” said Eduardo Palena, second vice president of the Mar del Plata Hotel Business Association (Aehg) in a radio interview.
The business organization represents 106 establishments in the seaside resort. The hotel industry in Mar del Plata reportedly accounts for 16,000 direct jobs and 80,000 indirect sources of income for workers.