Five Trends in Sustainable Luxury Travel & Tourism for 2018

Every year we create a list of trends based on observations at our hotels and lodges, as well as conversations and feedback from our guests.  One thing is crystal clear to us: our guests are looking for intelligent luxury and genuinely authentic experiences.  Here are 5 top trends for 2018 that we have identified.

Five Star Experiences vs. Five Star Hotels:  No one comes from far and wide to Costa Rica, Nicaragua or Panama to stay in a hotel.  They come to have experiences.  Of course, we need to deliver on the hospitality side, but the real adventures and memorable moments are had beyond the four walls of a hotel room.  It’s important for hotels to carefully design those very experiences, tours and excursions to consistently meet and exceed guest expectations.  The same idea extends to wellness experiences.  Now is the time to reinvent our wellness offerings, expanding things beyond the spa to all areas of the guest experience. We like to call it “Pura Vida Wellness”.

SUP in Lake Nicaragua. More and more we are finding ways to create our own experiences at the hotels using our own equipment, transportation and guides to guarantee a five-star experience.

Eating and Drinking done right:  The culinary revolution has been going on for years and by now, almost every guest is a “foodie”.  We have observed how our guests long for simple, uncomplicated food with a focus on fresh, healthy ingredients.  And food just tastes better when it comes with a story attached too.  Beachfront BBQ nights, pop-up street food stalls and make-your-own-ceviche classes are among the most popular culinary experiences at our hotels and lodges.

We take for granted that almost all the food we consume in this part of the world is grown, fished or raised just a few miles from where it is consumed.  But for our guests however, this focus on local provenance and freshness is a real luxury and treat.

Juicebar in Nosara. Local and fresh food. Not a trend, but something that is increasingly valued by our guests

Meaningful and Authentic Travel:  Authenticity has been the buzzword of the last year.  Everybody wants to experience the “real deal”, and nobody wants forced shows of “culture”.  But how can we keep something feeling authentic once it becomes a routine for us?  How do we deliver meaningful and authentic experiences on a daily basis?

Our approach has several components.  Our hotels and lodges are set in rural, natural locations, where we put a strong emphasis on creating a real sense of place across the board.  That means everything from architecture and materials used to sourcing local art and supplies.  We also work with 100% local staff and never employ ‘mercenaries’.  When you have a team who are genuinely proud to share their culture with guests and to champion the hotel’s sustainable ethos, there’s inherently a feeling of authenticity.

We completely open the back of the house of our hotels to our guests.  There are no “staff only” areas and through our sustainability tours, we create genuine interaction between locals and visitors.  This is when the magic happens and hotel guests come to understand that they’re part of something bigger. The tours show them that through responsible tourism they are actively contributing to the sustainable development of rural areas in Central America.

In 2018 we expect to receive more multi-generation families and larger groups at our hotels.  Increasingly, people are wanting to share meaningful experiences with their nearest and dearest.  They’re opting for a new kind of luxury travel which gives them the opportunity to connect with each other through authentic experiences, and disconnect from everything else in a rural destination.

Our back of the house tours are often guest highlights. Sometimes guests already know all about our initiatives such as the biogas-producing pigs. Other times they go in blind. Either way, the idea is to inspire them through “sustainability in action” in the hope that their future expectations of hotels with involve an element of integrity.

Back to the Hospitality Basics:   The owners of Cayuga are both graduates of the Hotel School at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. As you enter the Hotel School, there is a plaque with a quote by E.M. Statler that reads: “Life is service – the one who progresses is the one who gives his fellow men a little more – a little better service.

This is not rocket science.  Nor is it a new trend.  But, it is what marks the difference in our industry, and should be kept front of mind in 2018.  The human touch and the true desire to serve combined with efficiency and quality is what makes any hospitality experience special.  We are “service freaks” and believe it is the one thing that always needs to be done right.

It is not always about the “perfection” in service but rather about the genuine desire to help. By working with a 100% local staff, at times there may be small flaws in the execution of service, but they’ll never deal-breakers when the service is delivered “from the heart”.

Sustainability – Walk the Talk:  We have observed that our guests are becoming more and more sophisticated in their understanding of sustainability.  And they’re getting more and more annoyed with practices of Greenwashing too.  This is a good thing.  Hopefully it will force companies that are using their “green credentials” purely for marketing purposes to actually walk the talk.  As for the hospitality industry, it is simply not enough to stop at LEED certification and towel reuse programs.  Hotels need to be making conscious decisions down to the smallest details and looking for ways to integrate a philosophy of responsible tourism into every area of their operations.

For several years now, we have successfully banned single use plastic bottles and straws from our hotels and lodges. We hope to see this become a more widespread movement and even guest expectation in 2018.

Noticed another trend in sustainable luxury travel and tourism for 2018?  We’d love to hear from you!  Share your comments below and join the conversation.

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Andrea Bonilla

Co-Owner & VP Operations