Every so often, we receive an email from amazing hospitality professionals interested in working with us at the Cayuga Collection. This is the response that I just sent back to a potential General Manager who was referred to us by our friend Harsha L’Acqua from Saira Hospitality (check out the amazing work they do training local talent here) last month after applying with us to relocate to Costa Rica.
“Thanks for reaching out and for your interest in working with us at the Cayuga Collection. Looking at your CV and work experience, I am sure you would be an amazing GM for our properties. However, unless you are a Costa Rican citizen or have long-time residence status here, we won’t be able to employ you. As part of our commitment to sustainability and the local communities, we only hire locals. And this also holds for all management positions. Even though my life would be much easier having well-educated expats with global hospitality experience running our hotels, it is not what we do. Thank you for understanding.”
At the Cayuga Collection, one of our core principles is to hire locals. At every level. Even the top management positions. This means that we don’t hire foreigners. Hiring expats* is common practice in luxury hotels around the world as many hotel owners or management companies think they are not able to find locals with the skills to fill in these management positions.
And there is no doubt that it is not easy to find local General Managers, Operations Managers, Executive Chefs or Revenue Managers. But it is possible. More than 90% of our staff are locals from and around the nearby communities where we operate. The remainder are from other parts of the country. The Central American countries where we operate our hotels and lodges are fairly small so that the concept of “local” applies to almost the whole country. In three cases (which includes myself – born in Southern Germany, but 25+ years as a Costa Rican Resident), we actually have foreigners with long-term resident status in executive or management positions.
Working with local managers means that we spent a lot of time training, but it has the advantage that the experience of interacting with management for our guests is a lot more authentic. What has helped us tremendously in the past was to send our managers abroad on “mini-internships” to hotels around the world so that they get exposure to other luxury hotels.
The upside of working with locals only is how it translates into the guest experience. We aren’t acting or putting on a show. The local managers share their culture, history and experiences very naturally and this has a strong impact on our guests. And just recently, another advantage was that during the Covid crisis, we did not have to deal with expat managers leaving and wanting to go back to their families in their home countries.
It also demonstrates to the entire team, no matter where their career in hospitality begins, that they also have the opportunity to put in the work and passion to advance themselves up the “Cayuga Career Ladder.”
While we are quite strict on our policy of not hiring foreigners, we are happy to receive interns from universities around the world. We have had hundreds of interns work with us in the past years from Cornell University, the Hotel School in Lausanne and many other programs around the world. Of course, we also work with local interns.
We have also worked with international consultants in the past that help us with specific programs such as the Dock to Dish Initiative of connecting local fishermen directly with our chefs. And we have worked with well-known regional chefs like Andres Morataya (born in Guatemala, raised in Costa Rica and currently living in Panama) to upgrade our culinary program.
For us at Cayuga, Sustainability is all about people and working with local talent by offering career paths and opportunities to grow is key. Next time you go on vacation, pay attention to where the management team comes from that takes care of you.
* According to Wikipedia, “an expatriate (often shortened to expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of the person’s upbringing. The word comes from the Latin terms ex (‘out of’) and patria (‘country, fatherland’)”.