As the dust from dry season settles metaphorically and literally, merchants and business owners in Nosara are counting their spoils.
For many, this year was unprecedented in terms of business and profits, and it seems it’s due to two things. First, the global economic recovery has reached a point where people are travelling again. Second, local tourism seems to have received a boost, largely due to the expansion of the Daniel Oduber Quirós airport in Liberia, completed this past January.
Real Estate Market Shifting
Brandon Richardson, the owner of a local real estate company, is impressed with the recovery in the Nosara area and thinks overall the recession likely adjusted the real estate market in Nosara in a good way.
“It took about a year for the effects of the housing crisis to reach here, so we didn’t feel much until 2009,” notes Richardson. Over the next two years, prices dropped around 15 to 30 percent. “We were definitely living in a bubble before that, and I think the price correction was a healthy thing,” says Richardson.
Although Richardson says he was still showing a lot of homes from 2009-2011, few of those actually turned into sales.
The owner of another local real estate company, Bram Shook, agrees with the 2009-2011 timeline but disagrees somewhat on the recovery. He says that while people are buying homes again, it’s mostly in the high-end price range. However, he does see a gradual recovery happening.
“We’re selling a lot to Canadians, who weren’t hit as hard by the banking collapse. We’re also seeing the number of buyers come closer to the number of sellers,” says Shook. Part of the problem for realtors here in 2009, was that as the banking crisis deepened in the United States, more Americans who owned property wanted to sell and fewer people had money to buy, but Shook sees that shifting now.
More Tourists Coming From Liberia Airport
For Juan Surfo, who was born here and owns and operates a local surf school, the answer is simple. “Since they fixed the airport in Liberia, I’m doing way more business. This last season was the busiest ever,” he says.
Surfo organizes shuttles from Nosara to Liberia and says this year he was booking trips every day of the dry season. “It’s crazy. Before the expansion in Liberia some tourists came from Liberia but most came from San Jose. Now everyone comes from Liberia.”
Joellen Hughes, who has managed a hotel and restaurant with her husband Matt since November 2008, said their first year of business showed steady growth of 30%, likely due to a change in staff and business model. However, in July 2010, while the U.S. was still trying to stabilize and Europe was poised to take another dive into crisis, even a Nosara landmark like the Gilded Iguana couldn’t seem to fill rooms. “Since we took over, that period of July-August was our worst financially speaking,” says Hughes.
This year’s high season, though, was their busiest ever. “I think the hotel was basically booked from December to the last week in April, and the restaurant has been full too,” says Hughes.
Although these business owners are dealing with different segments of Nosara’s economy, they represent Nosara’s two economic cornerstones: real estate and tourism. Both took a hit in 2009 and both are in recovery.
Marco Johanning of the Nosara chamber of commerce says there has also been an increase in the number of businesses started in the area, evidence of the recovery. While the chamber doesn’t have statistics on exactly how many new businesses there are, Johanning says there’s been a marked increase.
He also mentions that there’s been a change in the type of tourist: more people are renting vacation homes rather than staying in a hotel. This may represent a more frugal type of tourist intent on staying longer, which is good news for property managers and mini-mart owners.
The Voice of Nosara conducted a brief informal survey of local businesses that supports what is being said. Of the businesses surveyed that were here in 2008 before the recession, almost all have seen their business increase this year compared to the past few years, especially in the property management area.
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