How to become a Hospitality Manager without any formal Education?

Meet Rodbin Bonilla.  He is the Guest Services Coordinator at Arenas de Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort in Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica.  He has a great story to tell…

Exactly 10 years ago in 2005, he arrived at the construction site of Arenas del Mar and asked for a job in construction.  He needed time away from some personal and professional problems in his native Naranjo.  He was 23 years old, had dropped out of school, was working random jobs and describes himself as a ‘badly behaved’ back then.

Rodbin Bonilla, Guest Services Manager at Arenas del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort. the Manuel Antonio National Park can be seen in the background.

After eight months of construction work in the heat of Manuel Antonio, he was promoted to become the driver of the pickup truck running errands in Quepos and then a larger truck bringing construction materials from San Jose.

In the transition of construction to hotel operation, he was asked by the hotel’s first general manager if he could stay on and help in the cleanup of some of the construction leftovers.  And since he did such a great job, he was then offered to join the hotel’s operations team as an ‘Electric Cart Driver’ taking guests around the property.  He was not sure at first if he should accept the job, due to the fact that he spoke absolutely no English.

Rodbin might not have had the privilege of receiving formal education, but he is “street smart” and has a lot of personality.  So he figured out how to communicate with guests, even without knowing their language and stayed on.

There is virtually nothing that Rodbin cannot get done. After a rainstorm, some branches of a tree needed trimming. He changed his Guest Services uniform for a harness and took care of things…

He joined the English classes that the hotel offered for the staff and studied more English after his shifts with borrowed books.  He realized that it was crucial to learn this language and realized that it just took some discipline.  His efforts got rewarded by management with the promotion to head of Electric Cart Drivers in 2010.  He is an example for everybody in the operation for his commitment and dedication to service.  He deeply cares and wants every single guest to be happy and satisfied.  Hospitality comes to him naturally.

He started to acquire management and decision making skills and due to his great ability to work with guests and staff alike, he was promoted to Guest Services Coordinator in 2014.  His next goal is to become Operations Manager.  He is very thankful to the current Managers Jorge and Alfonso and Cayuga for giving him this opportunity to grow.  He knows he will need get his high school diploma and do some formal studies.

Rodbin (first from left) is a great soccer fan. Here with his colleagues from work after a game in Quepos. Do you recognize the other guys?

Rodbin does not have a lot of free time because he also became an entrepreneur. In 2012 he started with $3,000 of working capital and offered to provide transportation services for Arenas del Mar.  He worked from 6 am to 2 pm in his regular job at the hotel and from 4 pm to 10 pm he drove his van providing transportation for guests that wanted to leave the property.  Now he has two buses and employs three local staff.  He is the exclusive transportation service provider for the Arenas del Mar, offers great service and just recently installed wireless internet for guests in the vans.

Rodbin says he gets his energy and motivation from his family.  He just recently got married. He has four children. He is very keen on giving all of his kids a great education – something that he did not receive.   He spent his honeymoon in Nicaragua where he visited another one of the Cayuga Collection Hotels, Jicaro Island Ecolodge.  Rodbin’s hobbies are fishing and soccer.  He is a great fan of the local team Liga de Alajuela.

Rodbins four children. They are a great inspiration and motivation for him.

Rodbin is happy.  It is easy to pick up on that when you talk to him.  He appreciates the stability of having a secure job that fulfills him and running his transportation company.  He is a great example how tourism, if done right, can positively impact people’s life.   We hope to continue to help write stories like Rodbin’s and many other Cayuga Collection staff for many years to come.

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