What do you prefer, accommodation-wise, when you go on vacation?
Do you like a super-luxury hotel where you can indulge your every whim in the most decadent manner possible? Or are you a family resort type, with massive swimming pools and kids clubs for the little ones?
Maybe you want smaller, more boutique hotels, rustic (or modern) and private. Perhaps you’re an ecolodge lover or you like hanging out in hostels for the social buzz.
There’s nothing wrong with any of these options at all. They all work, depending on your tastes or your vacation preferences.
But there’s also another option, one that insiders in the Costa Rica travel industry predict is going to take off in a much bigger way on the other side of this pandemic.
That’s the vacation rental industry or more accurately, the medium term vacation rental industry.
By that, I mean renting out a vacation rental for, say, a month or three. That’s something quite different from a traditional vacation home, which you book for a week or two. That’s well established everywhere, even more so in the era of Airbnb.
But have you tried booking an Airbnb for months at a time? It can get super pricey super fast.
At the other end of the scale, there’s long-term renting, where you sign a contract for at least a year and everything that goes with that – furnished vs unfurnished, cable bills, water bills, and so on.
Cheaper, yes, but not ideal for the new type of tourist that’s coming down the track.
That new type of tourist is the medium term renter.
They’re able to work from anywhere in the world since the pandemic began and they’ll use this time to check out other countries. But they don’t want to move to another country, just see what it’s like for a few months.
Casey Halloran, co-founder and CEO of Costa Rica travel agency Costa Rican Vacations says that his company and tourist businesses around the country are seeing more people inquire about month-long or longer trips than ever before. People who want to explore the country for a week or so, and then settle down somewhere for the rest of the time to hang out, do some work, and get into a daily routine.
The problem is finding rental homes willing to cater to these tourists – generally, the Costa Rican vacations house rentals industry caters to short-term rentals.
Halloran sees this as a little short sighted for many rental homeowners. He’s looking for more homeowners willing to trade those high daily or weekly rates for a little more stability by finding a decent price point for people wanting a two or three month lease.
He’s already found a few owners wanting to get on board by offering medium and long term rentals in Costa Rica to tourists, but believes demand will soon outstrip supply in the coming months.
It just makes sense in the new normal of tourism where people want stay away from other people, protected in sanitary bubbles, while enjoying the experience of actually living in Costa Rica for a bit, rather than being a tourist.
Some hotels are also jumping on the medium term bandwagon, too.
In Puerto Viejo, on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, Colin Brownlee’s Hotel Banana Azul is one of them.
Last year, Brownlee started marketing to digital nomads with monthly packages rather than the traditional nightly rate. He’s even opened a store, the Super Banana Gourmet Market, to cater for the types of tourist who no longer want to eat their meals in restaurants all the time.
Again, it’s all about providing a more “real life” experience for travelers who wish to stay a little longer.
There will always be a place for the traditional week or two week vacation, Halloran is quick to point out.
“People still want to get away for their special trip, whether that’s a honeymoon or family time, or whatever. We’re seeing a huge rise in inquiries as vaccination programs take off in the States,” he says.
“But we can’t ignore this new trend, which is directly influenced by the pandemic. We all need to work together to attract as many of these medium-term vacationers as possible to Costa Rica. And that starts with homeowners getting used to that middle ground between short and long-term rentals.”
James Dyde is the editor of centralamerica.com. He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.