VRPA, determined to become THE leader in Caribbean Vacation Rentals

I spoke to Sjoerd de Vries, of Beach Tennis fame. The man shifted his boundless resources of energy into the Vacation Rental segment of Aruba’s vacation industry, and managed to make good progress, in the past year.

Together with Alex Cybul, Albert Perret Gentil, and Francis Saladin they registered an association, VRPA, Vacation Rental Professional of Aruba, with the emphasis on professional, and started meeting with the tax department, DIP, ATA, AHATA, and many like-minded colleagues in the field, to try to determine how many beds are available; are all properties reporting their income; what are the standards of the industry, and how do you measure the economic impact of what was previously referred to as ‘other accommodations.’

They had many questions, and very few answers.

A number of years ago, with the introduction of the Sharing Economy phenomenon, locals and foreigners who own real estate here started offering their apartments, homes, condos, and garages, to visitors in search of a deal, more reasonably-priced accommodations.

What started as a secondary, affordable option for visitors, evolved rapidly, and the island now boasts some elegant boutique properties, and unique vacation experiences, as pricey as any resort. Some remained basic and friendly, some took it to the next level.

We now have something for everyone.

Post pandemic, Vacation Rentals’ popularity soared, with visitors preferring small properties, and less contact with people in elevators and indoor locations.

Sjoerd’s interest sparked when a few years ago he started running a vacation rental management company for overseas owners, and with time, got more and more involved with the goal of improving the product, introducing regulation, gaining clarity as to how it works, increasing tax compliance, all in order to ensure the sustainability of the product.

He also felt that recognition was due, and that this segment of the market was neglected and forgotten.  But in the absence of data, the information was simply not there.

With his VRPA colleagues, they commissioned an economic impact study in the month of April, 2022 supported by ATA and AHATA. TXP of Austin Texas, a company specializing in economic analysis took a look at the field in Aruba and presented a report.

Apparently 20% of our visitors in 2022, stayed at vacation rentals, and that trend seems to be growing.

At the first VRPA summit this week, at Azure Condominium, the economic study was introduced by its author, Jon Hockenyos. He explained to an audience of movers and shakers including the minister of economy, via zoom, that Vacation Rentals provide about 5,600 work places and injected $248.6 million in direct income, which translated into $478.7 million in economic activities.

The Vacation Rentals segment of our economy can no longer be treated as a step-child, it deserves the attention and respect, hotels, and timeshares receive.

Vacation Rentals are not going away. They are here to stay and the income generated improves the life of locals, and upgrades neighborhoods, encouraging investment in maintenance and beautification. We all enjoy the benefit of that.

Says Alex Cybul, whose company manages Vacation Rentals owned by both locals and visitors: We all think regulation is important, we all know Vacation Rentals are a very important part of our tourism industry but we need good regulations, to make sure people comply with their obligations.

The idea is to get organized in the best possible way, for the industry and the government to benefit. In general, we know locals never benefitted directly from our tourism, but now, they have an option to get involved. This creates small business opportunities for realtors, contractors, gardeners, pool companies, architects, cleaners, property managers, handymen and so on. There is a vast possibility for taxes to be collected, some already comply, and all others can still be collected if regulation is in place and properly enforced.

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May 18, 2022
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