The “Secret” behind the best Hotel & Eco Lodge Managers & Staff

We are in “Green Season” at the Cayuga Collection Hotels, Resorts and Lodges right now.  During the low occupancy months of September, October and November here in Costa Rica and Nicaragua we work on improving the infrastructure and maintenance of our hotels so that everything looks “spic and span” for the beginning of the high season in December.

Kura Design Villas
It is not easy to keep a hotel looking like “new”. The tropical humidity, the salt spray from the ocean and the sun take its toll on everything. September through November are our maintenance month. Some hotels like Kura Design Villas (here in the picture) actually close for a few weeks in October in order not to disturb guests.

But we are not only investing in the infrastructure.  More importantly, this is the time of the year when we invest a lot of our time in staff training, motivation and development.  Besides the regular training sessions that most companies engage in, we have a few programs that have helped us a lot in ensuring that our guests consistently point out the service and treatment by our local staff as the highlights of their trips.  (see some example in Tripadvisor here).  Maybe it is the “Secret” why we have such incredible managers and staff.

Lapa Rios Lodge Employee
This is an example of our incentive program. Lapa Rios‘ administrative assistant Karla brought her father to the Lodge to show where she works. They are enjoying a meal in the restaurant together.

We invite our staff to bring their families to the hotel and treat them as a guest for one night.  They have access to all the services that our guests have and the staff that is on duty is working really hard to make sure that they have the best experience ever.   And we make them feel really special.   This is not only fun for the employee that is staying at the hotel, but also helps them to understand how the guest feels and how important his or her job is to make things just perfect for guests.  Some guests bring their parents, some their significant others and some the whole family including kids.

Jicaro Lodge Incentive Program
If you have stayed at Jicaro Island Ecolodge, you probably have had a massage with Alma. Here she is at the lodge with her husband enjoying a honeymoon as part of the incentive program of the lodge.

Each hotel or lodge also selects some of its most deserving employees that have done an incredible job during the year and sends them on cross training to other Cayuga Collection Hotels.  So a housekeeper from Lapa Rios Ecolodge on the Osa Peninsula might go to experience Latitude 10 Resort in Santa Teresa or a front desk clerk of Arenas del Mar Resort in Manuel Antonio might go to Jicaro Island Ecolodge in Nicaragua.  The staff stays and eats at the different hotels for free, enjoys tours and activities and is allowed to bring his or her partner with her.   Visiting Arenas del Mar Beachfront and Rain Forest Resort in Manuel Antonio is very high on the “wish” list of many staff members.

Manuel Antonio View from Jacuzzi
Arenas del Mar Resort in Manuel Antonio is a popular destination for our staff exchanges. Who would not want to be in this Jacuzzi with views of the National Park and Pacific Ocean.

And then, of course, there is Cayuga Week.  This actually happened last week and motivated us to write this post.  We brought the middle management from all the hotels, resorts and lodges in Costa Rica and Nicaragua to San Jose.  They got to stay at a nice hotel (expenses covered) and were invited to motivational and educational activities.  As part of our commitment to sustainability, we hire local staff and managers at our hotels, resorts and eco lodges so training them is really our bread and butter.

London Room in San Jose
The first event of Cayuga week was a happy hour and dinner at a pub in San Jose. Lots of pictures with staff from the different hotels and corporate. And of course there was dancing…

The idea of this event is to reward everybody for a great high season, to bring everybody together and foster the feeling of being part of something bigger than just one hotel and to encourage them to communicate more on an ongoing basis and share challenges, solutions and best practices.

London Room
Group photo at the London Room Pub in San Jose.  Breaking the ice and getting to know each other in a casual setting.  And yes, we had a few beers as well.  Why not?

There is a strong focus on “fun”, but there is also some serious work involved.  The second day involved a seminar with a famous guest that came from the US to visit us in Costa Rica.  We were able to engage Dennis Cummins, a leading professional and personal growth expert for a full day seminar.  The focus of his presentation was on Leadership Skills and Teamwork.

Dennis Cummins in Costa Rica
Dennis Cummins with the Cayuga Collection Managers at the Irazu Hotel in San Jose. A great event and opportunity for growth for everybody present.

His presentation was amazing.  As is, it is a great adventure for our managers to come together from as far away as the Osa Peninsula or Granada in Nicaragua.  But the energy in the room was incredible and  everybody was totally “pumped up” afterwards.  We feel really proud of this great group of professionals and how much they have learned and evolved in the past years.  One of the main points that Dennis wanted to show the group was that the “sky is the limit”.   He asked the Cayuga managers to create vision boards from magazine cutouts and to really believe that achieving those “dreams” are possible.  Many of those boards are now up on desks and refrigerators all over Costa Rica and even in Nicaragua.

Dennis Cummings in Costa Rica
Dennis Cummins with Hans Pfister and Andrea Bonilla, co-owners of Cayuga as well as Ana Maria Baldoiceda, Project Director for Cayuga.  All working on a vision board.

With such a great success, we have already started to plan for Cayuga week 2016.  Many of the participants asked for a more outdoor activities.  Any ideas on what to do?  Send us a note to [email protected] or leave us a note on this blog…

Arenas de Mar Staff
Chef Miguel from the Arenas del Mar Kitchen staff takes his baby son Miguel to the pool as part of the “stay in your own hotel” incentive. He is accompanies by his colleague Cristian, who also works in the kitchen.

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