Cayuga’s Innovation Contest during the COVID-19 Crisis

The word “crisis” in Chinese is composed of two characters—one representing danger, the other opportunity.  A crisis presents a choice.  This is particularly true today.

In late March of 2020 when we had to close all Cayuga Collection Hotels & Lodges in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama due to the worldwide travel ban and closing of airports which are our lifeline for tourism, it became clear to us that we would need to be creative, innovative and think way outside the box in order to survive. 

According to a Harvard Business Review Article, “Crises present us with unique conditions that allow innovators to think and move more freely to create rapid, impactful change. These conditions provide us with the opportunity to do our best to help, and for our teams to do their most innovative work in the service of our organizations.”

So we decide that this was the best time to launch our second Cayuga Innovation Contest.  The first one we had launched in 2017 with almost 100 entries and the overall winner of this contest was the implementation of a Community Guide School at one of our lodges.  This has been a huge success and even expanded to become a guest experience. 

We invited all the employees at the Cayuga Collection Hotels and Lodges to present their innovations and ideas related to: 

  • Improving the guest experience
  • Becoming more sustainable
  • Generating new revenue streams
  • Increasing productivity and efficiency
  • Improving working conditions for our employees. 
  • Increase the wellbeing of local communities

We were impressed by the projects that were proposed to us and it was very hard to select winners (there were small cash prizes attached to winning as an additional incentive).  Below you find a selection of projects from the different hotels that are in process of being implemented over the next few weeks.  Stay tuned for an update in 2021 on progress. 

Jeremy Pinnock (Receptionist at Hotel Aguas Claras in Puerto Viejo) presented the idea of creating an “Afro-Caribbean Culture Tour” to guests.

Loraine Brenes and Donald Cruz (Chefs at Hotel Aguas Claras in Puerto Viejo) presented the idea to create a “hotel-made” Caribbean Hot Sauce for Sale at the Hotel’s Gift Shop.

At Senda Monteverde, Chefs Pedro, Andrey and Santos had the brilliant idea to raise Tilapia in the natural pond. Dock to Dish Monteverde Cloud forest Style.

Rodbin Bonilla (Operations Manager at Arenas del Mar in Manuel Antonio) proposed to make the hotel laundry more sustainable by increasing natural lighting and catching rainwater to wash linens.

Pablo Jimenez (Chef at Arenas del Mar in Manuel Antonio) proposed to create a support network for local farmers and improve their access to sell at hotels in the area.

The Team at Isla Palenque used the “downtime” to get serious about growing fruits and vegetables on the island. This was a project proposed by the maintenance and gardening teams.

The winners of the Cayuga Innovation Contest at Senda Monteverde. Besides the Tilapia project, the other ideas included a garden picnic experience for guests and a Monteverde Culture and History Tour.

Do you have an idea for us? We would love to hear from you. Write to us: or leave a comment on this blog.

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Hans Pfister

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