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‘Quarantine by the lake:’ Amidst pandemic, cabin rental company sees business increase

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Future in Focus: McCall

Four months ago, Joel Hellerman, the owner of McCall Cabins, thought everything would take a turn for the worse within his business. He did not foresee many tourists coming to Valley County and renting a cabin. 

Now, Hellerman says McCall Cabins might have its best summer yet. 

“Places that generally rent on the weekends (like) some of our small condos, they’re rented out on the weekends but also people are now coming in and taking them Monday through Friday,” he said. “What used to be two, three nights, are now five to seven nights. People seem to want to get out and it is kind of blown our minds a little bit.” 

[BoiseDev launches Future in Focus” with expanded coverage of Sun Valley & McCall regions]

Hellerman said there was a brief panic in early to mid-March, and he prepared for cancelations. When COVID-19 led to restrictions on things such as flights, McCall Cabins had a few people cancel. But for almost every cancelation there was another person wanting to book. 

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Boise Regional Realtors

Hellerman has noticed that people staying at McCall Cabins are staying for reasons other than a vacation. 

“We’re getting a lot of people go from ‘I’ve realized I don’t need to go to my cubical anymore,’ ‘to you know if we’re going to quarantine we’re going to quarantine up by a lake for two weeks,’” he said. 

Hellerman believes that the people who are coming to McCall are repeat customers. People familiar with the area, or people who live close by. 

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McCall Cabins has not limited the number of people who can stay in each cabin but has made several modifications including a second cleaner and they removed decorative pillows and blankets. Hellerman now requires guests to sign a waiver that has guests disclose if they are sick or symptomatic. The waiver also says that if a guest gets sick during their stay, it is not the house’s fault. 

Mountain destinations booming

In an interview with CNBC Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky said “travel as we knew it is over.” Chesky believes that this new version of travel may consist of people traveling more often to places near them— like McCall. Rather than taking a flight to big tourist destinations.

Hellerman says while there are still people coming down to say for a weekend, more people are staying longer. 

“I would say the amount of people has gone down a bit. I don’t see the same crowds that we do generally in July, but we have been busy far earlier than we usually are,” Hellerman said. “I would say if you were quantifying the entire summer then we’re going to have more people here this summer than average. But they are spread out more around three-plus months versus just six to eight weeks.”

Whether staying for a weekend or two weeks, McCall Cabins has seen a spike in cabin rentals. In July and the first half of August in 2019 there were 45 reservations, during the same months in 2020, there are 55 reservations.

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