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Tourists away, hostel closed: Corona also affects Dutch entrepreneurs abroad

It just went well for a few months with hostel Poco a Poco in Nicaragua. Tourists again dared to visit the country that had been plagued by political unrest for months.

All staff have to fire

“We have been profitable for three months and then the next crisis came,” says Wouter van Straten. Together with his girlfriend Sophie, he runs a hostel and a coffee bar in Léon, a city popular with backpackers.

Although Nicaragua has no lockdown and the government wants ordinary life to continue, Wouter and Sophie quickly closed both cases. All the staff, eighteen men, were forced to fire them. “That is super painful. Those people had been working for us for years.”

Everyone did receive a severance payment.

Do not take risks again

Doing business is also avoiding risks, Van Straten explains. “We wanted to stay open for as long as possible during the previous crisis. But that took a lot of time, energy, money and emotion. That is why we have now chosen for ourselves. A nice decision, we have less costs.”

There is no government support, such as in the Netherlands, in Nicaragua. However, they have arranged that no rent needs to be paid for the hostel. The rent for the coffee bar has been reduced. “We have a buffer to sing it out until the end of the year.”

The hostel has been closed since March 22:

If only it is questionable whether there will be tourists again by then. In the meantime, the two have fun with yoga, sports, going to the beach and Netflix. “And we have a five-month-old baby. A sweetheart. We’ll get through the days with that.”

Closing the diving school also gives you peace of mind

Tens of thousands of kilometers away, the company of Robert Rhemrev from Brabant has also been shut down. He was forced to exchange the hustle and bustle of his Thai diving school on the island of Koh Tao for peace and quiet in the countryside of northern Thailand, where his girlfriend lives.

“I have no responsibility at the moment. The dive shop is closed, the boat is in the harbor. It is also a moment of rest. I do not have to worry about anything. I can open, but there are no customers anyway “he responds soberly.

Special fish, clearer water

He misses his diving school. “I miss the contact with the staff. The work we did is great. It is a hobby that has become a company,” says Rhemrev. Because there are no tourists now and there is hardly any diving, nature has free rein. “A lot of fish are spotted that we normally never see. And the water seems to be very clear.”

Going back to Koh Tao is not an option. Although Thailand slowly gives tourism space again and diving schools are allowed to open again, the rules on the remote island are strict. Those who manage to arrive – there are hardly any boats – must be quarantined for a fortnight. Rhemrev does not feel like that.

Hoping for the high season

He thinks that in December, when the Thai peak season starts, tourism will return to normal. This mainly depends on the travel policy in Europe, where most diving students come from.

But he does not rule out the end of mass tourism for good. “The end of the diving industry by Corona, that could be. I’m a little black-headed.”

Financially especially heavy for Thai staff

Until then, the personnel must survive on the minimal support that the Thai government gives. The diving school owner is concerned about this.

“The school will be able to continue for a while without income. I am lucky that the low season is with us.”

Austrian hotel was already empty anyway

A little closer to home, in Austria, Hans Bruns and Nel Griffioen run their so-called Proefhotel. They rent that hotel to prospective Dutch entrepreneurs, who want to try a ‘Me Departure adventure’ for a few months. In those months, with the help of Bruns and Griffin, they held sway in the hotel.

As a happiness in an accident, the Proefhotel has had little trouble with the corona crisis. Just before that erupted in Europe, the last test entrepreneurs left Austria. So the hotel was empty anyway these months. “We haven’t noticed much about corona,” says Griffioen.

Nevertheless, this summer a new Dutch family will take up the challenge in the Proefhotel. Their expectation is that the borders will be open again this summer and that tourism will simply be possible again. “It looks good for Austria and we see that the Dutch like to go to the mountains.”

Help for other entrepreneurs

Griffioen has not been idle in recent weeks. To help other entrepreneurs in the tourism sector, she came up with the Dreamplekkado webshop. It is a platform with local souvenirs to bring the holiday atmosphere to the Netherlands. For example, you can buy cheese from Sweden, ceramics from Portugal or herbs from Italy.

Twenty Dutch and Flemish owners of hotels, holiday homes and bed and breakfasts throughout Europe sell things via the site. “It is not a complete revenue model,” but every euro is included.

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