Q COSTA RICA – A tree house, a beachfront condo or a room in Heredia is the choice of some 228,000 visitors to Costa Rica who preferred Airbnb for their accommodation rental in the past 12 months.

This number represents 8% of all arrivals in 2015 (2,925,128) according to the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) – Tourism Board – figures.

According to Airbnb, more and more visitors (tourists, people on business, etc) to Costa Rica are preferring to rent a private property than a hotel room

Airbnb data reveals that 65% of renters prefer to rent out the entire property, while the rest prefer a shared space, ie a room.

Shawn Sullivan, Airbnb director of Public Policies, told La Nacion, in Costa Rica there are some 7,200 hosts that together offer 12,000 places to rent. Click here for the video interview.

These hosts earn, on average, US$$2,800 per year, through Airbnb.

Sullivan says, the growth of Airbnb in Costa Rica, the company’s most important market in Central America, is due to the preference to have an opportunity to live as a local and shifts in the tourist industry. Sullivan explained that today most do not want to stay in hotel districts, they want the local experience of a “barrio” (neighbourhood) or a community.

“For us that is good, because that is what we offer,” said the Airbnb representative, explaining that 78% of their rental accommodations are outside hotel districts.

“The economic impact is impressive and here, in Costa Rica, a Tica family can earn almost US$3,000 extra a year in the rental business. It is not a lot of money, but for some families who are having financial difficulties, it is important,” said Sullivan.

Airbnb charges hosts a 3% commission.

However, Airbnb is under pressure by the government of Costa Rica who is insisting that the company provide personal information on its users (hosts), something the company said it cannot, and will not do.

In turn, Airbnb has offered to collect the 13% sales tax on all rentals in Costa Rica.

The Ministry of Finance (Tax Department) has yet to accept the offer.

Sullivan says the company has met with Tourism officials, Legislators and the Government to implement a “reasonable law” to take into account companies like Airbnb.

“We are willing to pay the same taxes as hotels, we do not think it makes sense to pay a higher tax. If the government wants to dedicate a fund for the parks, it is a domestic issue. We believe it would be best they talk to us and see how we can work together,” says Sullivan.