Local couple banking on a happy ending to their Poseidon Adventure
By Scott Condon, Aspen Times Staff Writer
After the tragedies of Sept. 11, most people wanted to burrow in at home, play it safe and prepare for tough economic times.
Not Tim Odom and Chrissy Cousins.
The couple proceeded with their plan to quit their comfortable white-collar jobs in the Roaring Fork Valley, rent out their house in Blue Lake and start a new life in Costa Rica.
Odom and Cousins, who are engaged to be married in May, found the nerve to carry through with a plan to buy the 15-room Hotel Poseidon in the Pacific Coast town of Playa Jaco, Costa Rica.
“It put chills down my back with the timing of this,” admitted Odom. “We almost backed out.”
Odom and Cousins had given notice at their places of employment one week before the terrorist attacks. The day the hijacked jets hit the World Trade Center and Pentagon, they huddled in their home and watched in terror — mostly for the victims but also because they feared their dream was shattered.
They begged their bosses to give them their jobs back if the deal fell through. Odom handled sales and marketing for Colorado Activity Centers, which promotes ski-related guide services and programs. Cousins was vice president of operations for Schwener Design Group of Basalt.
Despite the shock of Sept. 11, their lender agreed to stick with the deal, and the French owner of Hotel Poseidon reduced the price. Odom and Cousins are flying to Costa Rica today to work out details of the closing. They take over the property Dec. 1.
“It’s a chance to be our own bosses, to own our own business, to try to get ahead,” said Cousins.>
The hotel relies heavily on business from Costa Rican locals. It’s located about 90 minutes from the capital, San Jose.
Odom said locals from the metro area consider towns like Playa Jaco their beach playground much like Colorado’s Front Range residents treat Summit County as their mountain playground.
They intend to embrace the local business as well as the language and culture.
“We didn’t want to go down there and be snotty Americans,” said Odom.
Their experience as operators of their own hotel will be baptism by fire. December is the start of the dry, busy time at Playa Jaco, a town of about 3,000. “Their high season coincides with our ski season,” noted Odom.
Odom and Cousins will immerse themselves in all aspects of the operation, with assistance from a Spanish-speaking friend, three maids and another friend who will operate the hotel’s small restaurant. They will live in a manager’s apartment connected to the hotel.
Odom, a Colorado native, fell in love with Costa Rica after visiting the country when his dad retired there a decade ago. Cousins shared his love of the place, and they decided earlier this year to shop for a property to buy and operate.
They toured the Playa Jaco area with a local real estate agent last summer but were demoralized after visiting six or seven places. All of them were dumps. That changed when they visited a property owned by a Frenchman and leased by a Dutch couple.
“When we saw the Poseidon, we both knew,” said Cousins. “The minute we walked in, it was ‘Wow.’”
They used their Blue Lake home as equity to get a loan for the down payment. The owner is financing the remainder of the purchase.
They immediately plan to make the rooms more attractive to Americans by adding refrigerators, hair dryers and coffee makers. They will heavily promote the on-site restaurant and pool with bar.
Their hotel is one-half block from volcanic sand beaches, and the growing tourist area surrounding Playa Jaco features adventure sports based in the water and adjacent rain forests. Surfing, sport fishing and white-water rafting are all big in the area. In the rain forest, there are mountain biking and swinging through trees on a canopy tour.
“The adventure sports — that’s what it’s all about right now,” said Odom.
With an extensive background in sales, marketing and hotel management, Odom plans to target American tourists, particularly from Colorado. They already have some business from Americans and Europeans.
They believe the adventure sports will appeal to Colorado’s active residents, and vacations on the beach are always popular, especially when ski season ends. Air fare and other prices typically drop for trips to Costa Rica right about the time Colorado’s mud season begins.
They are also touting affordable vacations. Hotel Poseidon’s rooms currently go for $99 per night, and they are offering a 20 percent discount for advance reservations.
Within two years, Odom hopes that 80 percent of their business comes from advance reservations.
A boost is expected from development of two large resorts nearby. Four miles away, Marriott Hotel operates Los Suenos Resort. Just a few blocks from the Poseidon, Basalt-based developer Ed Podolak is renovating a property now called Club Del Mar.
Odom, 35, and Cousins, 34, are banking on success. They will be married at their hotel next May by Odom’s 96-year-old grandfather, a preacher from Tennessee. They also plan to start a family down there.
“I don’t believe this is happening,” said an ecstatic Cousins the day before leaving the Roaring Fork Valley. “For a long time I didn’t think Tim was really serious.”