We manage an Eco Lodge in Nicaragua. Jicaro Island on Lake Nicaragua. It is a truly spectacular place. Incredible setting with views of the Mombacho Volcano and one of the most tranquil and relaxing places that you can imagine. The lodge will be three years open today and it has been a great success story in sustainable tourism. Last year we were featured in almost every important travel and lifestyle magazine, the lodge has just climbed up to the #1 spot on Tripadvisor and guests rave about the experience. The locally recruited general manager Howard and his young Nicaraguan staff have done magic.
This is not a ” given” though. We have been working in Nicaragua tourism for over 10 years now and it is a true challenge. The human resources are very motivated, but the skill level is very low. There is virtually no experience on how to deal with a luxury traveler and only through our links to the Cayuga Collection Hotels in Costa Rica and a strong effort by our corporate team, have we been able to reach world class service levels.
Nicaragua is probably 20, if not 25, years behind Costa Rica in terms of its tourism industry development and in terms of infrastructure, facilities and know-how, there is still a lot to be done. For the first time visitor to Nicaragua, the roadside littering is very disturbing (common joke is that the plastic bag is Nicaragua’s national flower). Cleaning up the trash issues is a big priority in order to become more attractive to foreign tourists. Furthermore, open communications and explaining to guests in a straightforward manner as to what is going on is also a quality that is often lacking and we spend a lot of time training for. Things do go wrong sometimes. It is a Nicaraguan (and general Latin American) trait to just avoid the issue. That obviously drives European and North American guests crazy.
But I am always impressed by the way that Nicaraguans (especially the ones that work at Jicaro) get things done and impress our guests at the highest levels.
Creativity and Ingenuity: Since resources are scarce in Nicaragua (it is after Haiti the second poorest country in the Americas), it is amazing to see what creative solutions our staff has come up with to make things work. This is especially true for the maintenance department. I think MacGyver (remember that 80’s TV show) was of Nica descent.
Gratitude and humbleness: Nicaraguans tend to be very grateful for opportunities that are given to them to learn and develop as professionals. They also have a certain humbleness to them that makes them very likable.
We are committed to further develop the concept of sustainable and ecotourism in Nicaragua and are looking for expansion of our activities there in 2013. Ideally with a beach hotel or lodge that would make the perfect combination with a stay at Jicaro.