THE beaches and continued development of Guanacaste have made the province an attractive travel destination. However, while hotels and housing developments have experienced a boom, the timeshare market remains relatively empty.
Time-shares may best be described as shared-ownership properties. Owners make a one-time purchase of a share and in return receive an allotted amount of time at the property annually, usually ranging between one and two weeks.
Buying a time-share can be worthwhile for both parties. For the seller, a time-share can gross more money than simply selling a condominium. For a buyer, a time-share, especially in a developing area, can be an investment, as the person purchasing that share now owns a part of the property and will have a place to stay annually or can later sell the share.
The largest and oldest time-share company in Costa Rica is Condovac La Costa (281-0850, www.condovac.com) in Playa Hermosa, with its history dating back to 1970. The 107 villas are on a hillside leading to the beach, and can also be rented nightly. Villas consist of a fully equipped kitchen, bathroom, bedroom with two double beds and a living area. All suites have telephones, cable TV and air-conditioning in the bedrooms.
ARTURO Ulate of the Current Accounts Department for Condovac timeshares, refers to the villas as “little houses on the beach,” saying they give people the comforts of home while on vacation.
Time-share owners have full access to the resort’s pools, tennis courts, gym and activities. Condovac recently began a renovation and modernization project to upgrade its facilities. (TTWeekend, March 26).
Condovac has several options available for time-share buyers. The year is broken into four seasons based upon the popularity of the season, with B being the lowest and AAA the most in demand.
Prices range between $3,500 and $13,000 with a 30% down payment, and clients must also pay an annual maintenance fee, generally ranging $250-$450.
Timeshare owners then receive one week per year at Condovac during their chosen season. The resort has roughly 5,000 clients, with the overwhelming majority of owners being Costa Ricans. In fact, Ulate says, only 270 clients are from the United States.
ALSO providing a time-share option is the new Four Seasons Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo (696-000, www.fourseasons.com/costarica). Although the shares will not be for sale until early May, Four Seasons Residence Club Director of Marketing Angela Gyetvan says the company is optimistic about sales in Guanacaste. The success of the hotel, which already has several dates completely booked, leads Residence Club management to believe the time-shares will likely be in demand as well.
Prices are not yet set, but Gyetvan estimates that shares will be somewhere between $150,000 to $200,000.
To begin, the Four Seasons will offer 10 units in what Gyetvan refers to as fractional ownership. Buyers will receive onetwelfth shares in the property, entitling them to 21 days a year at the resort, with those days divided up between seasons.
The 10 units consist of two- and threebedroom luxury apartments. Each bedroom is a master suite with bathroom and the three-bedroom apartments have a fourth bathroom as well. Kitchens are fully equipped. Living room, dining room, storage area and laundry area are standard in all apartments.
“What really makes the Residence Club different is that it is the Four Seasons,” says Gyetvan, adding that the hotel is known for its dedication to quality, and that time-share owners have full access to the services that Four Seasons offers. Residence Club members have full use of the resort’s facilities, including spa, golf and pools.
IN 1998, MelíaPlayaConchalBeach and Golf Resort, now known as the Paradisus PlayaConchalBeach andGolf Resort (654-4123, www.solmelia.com), offered time-share opportunities.
The 16 units sold within one year.
However, over time clients began to cancel contracts and the hotel cut its number of timeshare units to six, discontinuing sale of the properties, but continues to recognize existing time-share holders.
The 250 owners receive one week annually at the resort. Identical to the resort hotel rooms, the time-shares are air-conditioned and include private terraces, living rooms, bathrooms and bedrooms. Owners have full access to the Paradisus Resort’s golf, pool and other facilities.
Both Condovac and Four Seasons staff are optimistic regarding time-share opportunities, because as the tourism industry grows in the Guanacaste area they believe all sectors of the tourism industry will benefit.
However, Mauricio Zarate, reservations manager for Paradisus Playa Conchal, says the resort no longer has a time-share program because the venture was not profitable. “It wasn’t worth it for us to be selling time-shares,” Zarate says, adding they could make more money renting those units as hotel rooms.
According to Zarate, Sol Melía, Paradisus’ parent company, has recently looked into a renewed time-share venture, but currently it is up in the air.
“Right now, it has worked out better for us just turning those units into a hotel,” says Zarate. “And now with the increased international flights coming into the [Liberia] airport, we are likely going to be having more demand for the hotel.”
BABE Hopkins of Emerald Shores Realty (654-4554, www.emeraldshoresrealty.com) says she also knows of several time-share condominiums in the area, but that to her knowledge they were not run through a time-share company.
According to Jon Marquand of Emerald Shores Realty, the market for time-shares in the region is growing, it just hasn’t been tapped into.
“If the right company came down here, time-shares would sell like crazy,” Marquand says, adding there have been interested parties and he believes that in a few years there will be a strong time-share market in Guanacaste.
He also says many companies that have come to the area to set up time-shares have not properly marketed the business and have failed as a result.
However, he says he believes the area will soon experience a boom similar to Mexico, where time-shares are a hot commodity.
According to Marquand, development of the area along with further investment and a continued influx of tourism will result in more companies offering quality time-shares in Guanacaste.