Spending time at the cottage is a summer tradition for many Canadian families, but for those that haven’t yet booked a rental, that tradition may be broken this year.
The demand for cottages is so high that some rental companies say they are almost fully booked, only a month into the new year.
Normally, if people are looking for cottages at this time of the year, they wouldn’t have a hard time getting one for the summer, Craig White, the co-owner of CottageLINK Rental management, explained. But this year is unprecedented.
“We saw in December a lot of our larger cottages, the four- and five-bedroom cottages where families were gathering together, extended families grandparents, children, all together they booked up right before Christmas for all summer,” White said.
The two- or three-bedroom cottages normally for single-families tend to be booked at the very last minute and even those are going fast, White said.
“We really don’t have that much left at the moment, so we are kind of beating up the bushes for new cottages.”
CottageLINK Rental has 140 properties across the province and is already 90 per cent booked for the summer. White attributes the demand to the pandemic, and the fact that many people who missed out on the cottage rental last summer don’t want to miss out again this year.
It wasn’t just fun in the sun people were looking for last year. Demand for cottages held up through the fall. As public health officials urged people to stay home and many companies allowed their staff to work from home, many people opted to operate from the cottage.
“Internet access has really been one of the items that has been in demand with our guests,” White said.
“November it’s rainy, cold, wet. And we would typically get maybe five to 10 bookings in the entire month and we had about 75 or 80 this past year.”
Ontario is currently under a stay-at-home order but that hasn’t deterred people from booking in hopes the province will loosen the restrictions as the weather warms up.
Rental prices have also gone up as a result of the high demand. White said there’s a 10 to 20 per cent price increase across the board this year.
“Something else that also exacerbates that is that cleaning costs have gone up,” White explained.
“Every cottage owner has a caretaker that comes and does changeover for the next guest and especially with COVID-19 we need to make sure everything is cleaned and sanitized properly. Cleaners are also in demand so that’s an added cost a well.”
For those still looking for a cottage this summer, White’s advice is to keep looking and to see the current situation as an opportunity to visit other parts of the province.
“Talk to agencies, get your name on their waiting lists and tell them what you are looking for. Also be prepared to move out of what you would traditionally consider your comfort zone in a cottage. Consider a river cottage as opposed to absolutely being in Lake Muskoka or Lake Joseph. Be prepared to travel a bit north and see what’s up there it’s beautiful.”
With files from Richard Southern