Are we there yet?

This blog post is dedicated to everyone in the hospitality industry who has been fighting like a lion in the past month, is getting a bit tired and needs some encouragement to carry on.  

I must admit I am a bit tired. 

Do not get me wrong – I am not throwing the towel.  Not even close!  And especially not now that there is clearly some light at the end of the tunnel of this pandemic.  The last 10 months have been very hard on all of us working in hospitality, but it seems to me that right now is the hardest part of it all.  I am struggling to figure out how close or far that light at the end of the tunnel is and if it takes us another two, four, or six months to get there. 

To feel this uncertainty so close to the finish line is exhausting. 

“Meta” means finishing line in Spanish. This picture was taking at a fundraising race on the Osa Peninsula a few years back. I was tired there as well, but for other reasons…

At the very beginning, when the borders and airports closed, it was all new and we were pumped up with adrenaline.   We had to shut down all hotel operations within a few weeks after experiencing our best high season ever.  It was hard as hell to let go of almost half of our staff at the hotels and put the remaining on a 50% payroll deduction.   We were in “war-mode” and fighting hard and looking for opportunities.

And the teams responded incredibly well.  We developed solid health and hygiene protocols in record time and reopened our hotels successfully for the local market in June.  We managed to keep the hotel infrastructure in impeccable condition and quickly hired back more than 25% of the staff.  We raised salaries again and had a better-than-expected occupancy for December and Festive Seasons.  We even successfully implemented an innovation contest.

But here is the challenge.  January and February (a.k.a. high season) reservations are very slow.  And that is a problem.  Our operating costs have gone up again with higher payrolls and full amenities being offered to our guests.  To maintain high quality standards in terms of guest experience, sustainability, and health protocols, we do not participate in price wars and heavy discounting.   Guest expectations are higher than ever.  But thankfully our guests are raving about their experiences and we promised to not cut corners.   We are holding on…

Your stay benefits communities, wildlife, & forests
At this point in time, we are all just holding on…

Of course, we continue to be optimistic.  That is the Cayuga Way.  We know that we are very well positioned with our focus on excellence, nature experiences in small and sustainable luxury hotels, and lodges.  We believe in this industry.  We are passionate about service and our people.  We love seeing the opportunities that exist for our local employees.   Not just for simple employment but for career growth and entrepreneurship. 

Sunrise in December 2020 over Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica.

The hospitality industry has taken a beating.  We are all hurting badly.  But it is still the best industry ever.  I could not imagine working in any other industry, despite the 24/7/365 schedules and long, often underpaid, and undervalued hours.  However, I know that what we do matters through the conservation of natural habitats, improvement of local communities and people. 

And now, our roles as hospitality professionals have taken on a whole new level of importance.  Through vacation experiences, we will help people heal their mental wounds from this pandemic.  It has not only been a physical strain on all of us, but mostly a mental challenge.  We all have struggled in one way or another with this.  What better medicine than a hike in the rainforest with your family, a stroll along a secluded beach with  your loved one or a socially un-distanced meal with your feet in the sand next to the ocean with your best friends.

We cannot wait to be social again.

So here is to my great team at Cayuga and all the warriors and heroes out there that work in the hospitality, restaurant, airline and tourism industry right now.  I know you are tired as well.  It does feel like we just finished the 2020 mega marathon and now they ask us to do another ten miles uphill in 2021.  Don’t give up now.  It is crunch time.  Yes, we all need to give our best.  We are getting close and our guests will really appreciate us being there for them when they feel safe to come back.  Our industry can and will make a difference.  A big difference. 

Oh, and one more thing.  Stick together.  We are not competitors right now.  We are all one industry, and we need each other.  We need to unite to save our industry.   Lend a helping hand to your colleagues if you can.  We continue to be strong today for an extraordinary tomorrow. 

Please feel free to share your story of how you find strength to carry on in the comments below or send me a note to


25 Responses

  1. Hans, congratulations on leading sustainable tourism. I applaud you for your creativity and grit. Creating an innovation contest, that’s amazing and I can’t wait to hear what came out of it!
    For myself, I’m taking courses. One is the Team, Management and Leadership Program, an ontological course, so very distinct than your traditional courses. And just completed a Circular Economy course that can be applied to any industry, government and country.
    Stay healthy.

  2. Great effort and very visionary actitud!! Thanks for sharing, it means a lot comming from you. It is so important to keep high and strong everyone in this sector. Abrazos 🤗👍

  3. Hans, you got it spot-on. It took so much work to run the first 40km of the marathon in the dark, now we can see the finish line. Yet, it’s the hardest. I solute you and your team. Hang in there, see you over the finish line. Wish you a great 2021!

    1. Thanks Mei for those words of encouragment. We hope you can come back to Centralamerica real soon. Good luck to you and your wonderful team at Wild China from the Cayuga Collection.

  4. Thank you for this uplifting message. It comes from the heart of the Hans I worked with many years ago at the Hotel School. It’s especially welcome today because it is cold and snowing in Ithaca.

    1. Thanks Michael. So great to hear from you. All the best and I hope you can come to Costa Rica soon. Hans

  5. It has been such a trying time for tourism and hospitality. But ‘the darkest hour is just before dawn”. And the dawn will be a huge increase in sustainable tourism. It, its principles and staff will increase in value as people realise we don’t just deliver frivolous holidays, but healing for people, places and planet; communities and conservation who have suffered likely disproportionately during the pandemic, valued by customers who want greater equity and to give back.
    It’s hard to be excited right now, but I have true faith we should be, for the silver lining – the tipping point we’ve always worked for that is our calling. We’re with you!

  6. Dear Hans
    Hardest times ever for anyone working in this wonderful industry of tourism and hospitality. But it is good to read that we all have those difficult days from time to time and we all have to get through them. And we will get through it, no doubt about it.
    I wish you and your Cayuga team all the best for the coming months, which may still be difficult. But whenever possible, we will support you by having our customers to travel to Costa Rica or Panama. Above all, keep the faith !
    Ofcourse #strongtodayextraordinarytomorrow

    1. Thank you for this nice comment and your support Patrick. It means a lot ot us. Hang in there. Saludos from Costa Rica.

  7. We feel your pain. Those of us working in the resort and hospitality industry are hoping that light we can all now see at the end of the tunnel comes sooner rather than later. Our very best to Cayuga!

  8. Hallo Hans(i),
    hab in der Krise öfters an dich und dein Business gedacht. Leider sehen die Verantwortlichen die tatsächlichen Auswirkungen Ihres Handeln nicht ganz “objektiv”. Mein Sohn hat Hotelmanagement angefagen zu studieren und bei Beginn der Krise zwangsläufig nochmals umgesattelt. Viele seiner ehehmaligen Kollegen haben den Glauben mittlerweile verloren und sich auch (zwangsläufig) umorientiert.
    Die Auswirkungen und Einzelschicksale werde leider auch in Deutschland nicht gesehen.
    Sprüche wie “stay strong” kannst du bestimmt auch nicht mehr hören!
    Mit meinem Business kann ich dich von hier aus leider auch wirklich unterstützen.
    Ich rühre aber selbstverständlich mit Sicherheit die Werbetrommel für dich, deine Familie und dein Team.
    Wenn es einer in der Krise in deinen Business schafft, dann bist es aber mit Sicherheit DU!
    Wenn wir dürfen, kommen wir im nächsten Herbst / Winter sicherlich zu dir.
    Grüsse von Gerhard

    1. Vielen Dank Gerhard fuer die virtuelle Unterstuetzung. Wir sehen langsam Licht am Ende de Tunnels und es waere super wenn Ihr uns bald besuchen kommt. Wir bleiben im Kontakt. Alles Gute und viele Gruesse an die Familie.

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Hans Pfister

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