Business Monday: Aspen hospital pair aim for hospitality in El Salvador

Sometimes the best ideas come in the workplace, or at least that’s what two Aspen Valley Hospital employees are banking on.

Over the past decade working together, emergency room tech Juan Osorio and nurse Chris Smith courted the possibility of opening up a surf B&B in the Central American country of El Salvador, one known more for its violence and poverty than its tourism.

But Osorio, an American who grew up in El Salvador, said he saw a business opportunity in his native land.

“I do love that area,” he said. “The people there are friendly, they are hard workers.”

After researching the area, Osorio and Smith in July made one of the biggest investments in their lifetime — they both put down $30,000 to buy a three-bedroom, two bathroom surf bed-and-breakfast in El Palmarcito, El Salvador.

They are marketing the Pacific Ocean beach house — it’s called Aroma Del Mar and comes with Wi-Fi and a swimming pool — to Americans and Canadians on a low budget seeking big waves. Room rates average $85 a night, while a week costs $500. Surf lessons are offered at additional charges, and the on-site caretaker speaks both Spanish and English and gives guided tours of the land.

There’s no escaping that El Salvador has been rife with plights and crises.

After two earthquakes in 2001 devastated the country, the George W. Bush administration granted temporary protected status to Salvadorans in American who were not citizens. Earlier this month, however, President Donald Trump lifted that protection to nearly 200,000 Salvadorans living in the United States. A considerable number of Salvadorans live in the Roaring Fork Valley, said Osorio, who resides in Glenwood Springs with his wife and three children.

Osorio and Smith said the risk that comes with their investment is outweighed by what they consider a way to boost the country as well as their own financial futures.

“The ultimate purpose is to bring financial resources to the quaint enclave and share its treasures with North Americans who only see this country as a frightening and violent destination,” Smith said.

Osorio said he explained it to his wife like this: “Let me take a chance to do something to prepare for our retirement.”

The property is marketed through the usual means — they have a website and it is offered on sites like The B&B is about a 35-minute drive to San Salvador airport.

“The place is safe,” Osorio said of the gated home that has seven beds and accommodates as many as 10 guests. “There is such a big misconception about (El Salvador).”

So far Aroma Del Mar has had a steady flow of guests. There isn’t a high season or offseason there, they said, and the room rates stay more or less the same.

“We really are invested in this,” Osorio said. “We’re trying to be good ambassadors.”


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