Owning a hotel in Manuel Antonio

September 10, 2019

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In some of our previous blogs, we talked about the nuances and some key points when considering a hotel purchase in Costa Rica. I would like to share a bit about several different markets here as they relate to hotel opportunities and some of the nuances to consider when thinking about a hotel purchase in the Manuel Antonio area.  Owning a hotel in Manuel Antonio puts you into a privileged position as an operator in a destination whose supply and demand dynamic is one of the most PURE anywhere in the Country and in all of Central America.   One might think to jump to room count, amenities, cash flow, etc. when searching for a hotel investment in Costa Rica but the MOST important first step is finding a destination, community, marketplace and lifestyle which you want to be a part of and which you want to share as an extension of your business with your clients. The Manuel Antonio area offers a very unique fusion of an authentic local community with rustic sense of charm, adventure and history, along with a robust set of infrastructure, international flair, gastronomic diversity, etc. which is incredibly charming.  

Traditionally when looking at Costa Rica as a tourist or as an investor your were essentially faced with making a decision of Authenticity vs Luxury. Do you want to be a luxury hotel with all the comforts of home, services, etc.  or do you want to be in the rainforest, seeing, hearing and smelling and feeling the vibrancy of the natural beauty which has made Costa Rica so authentic..  Tough choice.. and many travelers want BOTH, but could never have them.  Opt for the large branded resorts which have made the beaches of Guanacaste so popular on the global stage.. you get beach and comfort but miss so much of what Costa Rica exports as its DNA to the world.  Opt for the Osa or southern zone and you will get jungle and tropical beauty beyond your wildest dreams.. but how many of us are ready for a Davey Crocket like experience and hours in a car to get to our destination.  Manuel Antonio has long been evolving a a fusion of these two concepts and today boasts on the only destination in Costa Rica which combines both flawlessly.

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The countries smallest, yet one of its most visited National Parks offers up incredible biodiversity, stunning beaches, and a consisten tourism flow which is crucial to any hotel business model. Along with the Park is the countries fastest growing marina, Marina Pez Vela which in addition to attracting high end travelers, has also extended the operational season with a robust tournament series, whale watching during what are traditional slower months and big activities like triathalons and boat parades.  Having these two iconic tourism drivers helps each and every hotel here as with this destination your only obstacle as a hotel operator is finding your niche WITHIN an existing market vs having to find creative marketing methods to drive people to your hotel or destination.  There are no large branded hotels in the area, fewer condosluxury homes, and single family residences than in most other areas and while there is competition, no other destination works more favorable for a hotel owner than Manuel Antonio. 

One of the biggest mistakes we see hotel visionaries and investors making is thinking that you can move to undeveloped areas, find a less expensive property and magically bring the clients and build a sustainable business.  This CAN be done, but it requires a UNIQUE property and more importantly requires an exponentially more aggressive, consistent, creative and evolving marketing and promotional plan.  Can you get clients to lesser known destinations and hotels.. OF COURSE.. but success in hotels is not about a few groups or guests per year, but about SUSTAINED occupancy, increasing ADR’s, accessibility to staff, services, maintenance and care teams, etc. and while properties in more establishes areas like Manuel Antonio will be a bit more expensive, it is VERY important to make sure you are aware and informed of the market realities and the benefits which an established destination like Manuel Antonio can have on a boutique hotel operation.

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In addition to the existing tourism flow and supply and demand dynamic of the Manuel Antonio, there are a host of other operational advantages to investing in a region like Manuel Antonio to consider.  These include the availability of a large, highly trained, bilingual work force in the area.  The availability of managers, reception teams, waiters, bartenders, maintenance crews, maids and accountants with experience in tourism, short commutes to and from work, allow for high levels of operational freedom and flexibility for owners which in more remote areas become VERY important operational obstacles to consider.  Understanding the availability and accessibility of staff is something few realtors or hotel investors consider but can make an HUGE difference on the enjoyment of your operation.  Same goes for materials, contractors, technicians, banking and other services which are integral to a smooth operation and your guests experience.  This doesn’t mean that operating in more remote areas is impossible, but a real guide to your investment will do more than highlight the beauty and potential of more challenging areas to operate.. Understanding the opportunities and the obstacles is crucial to success and areas like Manuel Antonio make for some of the most profitable spots and easy transitions for those looking to get involved in teh hospitality industry in the area.

So, while considering your hotel purchase don’t get too caught up in the pool shots, monkey images, and dreams of pina coladas before you make sure you understand the market, community, infrastructure and lifestyle you are going to be working in and selling.  Manuel Antonio is a unique and highly sought after option and while not for everyone has some very distinguishing characteristics which virtually no other destination here in CR can match. See our complete list of hotels for sale in Manuel Antonio.

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Scott Joshua Cutter

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