Celebrating Women In Travel at Hidden Doorways

March 2, 2022 by Laura Fishman


As we celebrate women around the world marking International Women’s Day on March 8th, we are delighted to spotlight our inspiring female owners and GM’s who pave the way in the travel and hospitality industry, especially during the challenges of the past two years.

Check out our interviews with these trailblazing women whose passion, empathy and compassion continue to create equitable opportunities, preserve wildlife through conservation and elevate local communities and female voices in Costa Rica, India, Guatemala and Scandinavia.

Marina Safonova, Founder of Nordic Luxury

Iceland & Scandinavia

Learn More about Nordic Luxury

 

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

It’s a part of the culture and traditions I grew up with. It’s a day to celebrate femininity.

 

How did you weather the pandemic and keep your team motivated?

It wasn’t easy for all of us. But we stayed together and supported each other, tried to maximize the time we got – for our processional growth and development. We are a small community here in Iceland, we focused on getting through it as a family.

 

What is your favorite detail, hidden gem, or insider tip at your destination?

What I love the most about Nordic Luxury is how much each of us cares about the company, about services we provide.
We take pride in taking care of our guests, showing them the destination through our own eyes.

 

What contribution during your time at your property are you most proud of?

Nordic luxury is my creation, and I am very proud to see where we are after 9 years.

 

How do you, your team and guests stay connected to your local community?

We love to dedicate some in our guests itineraries to introduce Nordic way of life, Nordic culture, traditions through food, history and nature.

 

Any career advice for aspiring women in the travel and hospitality industry?

Passion is the key and if you love what you do – never stop learning and exploring.

 

Is there a special touch that you believe women bring as a founder of a company?

Attention to details – I think this quality is very often seen in women leaders, important in this industry.

 

What lead you to work in the travel and hospitality industry? What is your favorite advice that did you receive from a mentor that inspired you to move forward in your career?

During my final year at the University, I was making my choice – to work in Travel or in HR. I chose travel and didn’t regret it a single time in my 22 years in travel. Throughout the years I felt that I belong to a special travel tribe, got the opportunity to meet some absolutely amazing people in different parts of the world, many of them I admire and I look up to, and many became my true friends.

Anjali Singh, Creative Director of SUJÁN

Rajasthan, India

Learn more about SUJÁN.

 

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

I believe women should be celebrated every day but IDW is a globally recognized day to celebrate our strength & achievements.

 

How did you weather the pandemic and keep your team motivated?

At SUJÁN, we adapted quickly to the new normal, transitioning to online and remote working but ensuring regular catch-up calls with each department on a regular basis, not only to stay updated on the work front but also to connect on a personal level to see how each one was doing and how we could support each other during the difficult times. We were quick to offer support if any of our employees needed time off to look after their physical, mental and emotional well-being or that of their family. We even launched a wellness initiative ‘Positive Pulse’ where our people were free to seek counseling with trained psychologists in complete confidence. Thankfully, we were in a position at the beginning of the pandemic to strategize.

 

Despite the truly devastating times, we decided to use the pandemic time positively and constructively. How could we use the pause to develop and grow? So, as India’s borders closed and we were forced into lockdown, we took a strategic decision to transform SUJÁN and with it, of course, to bolster our commitment to conservation, and the communities around us.

 

Despite all our camps remaining closed because of the pandemic, we are proud that we did not make even a single member of the SUJÁN team redundant. Instead, we created more jobs and inspired our team, keeping them super engaged throughout as we embarked on our redesign and relaunch ahead our of 21st birthday.

 

What is your favorite detail, hidden gem, or insider tip at your camps?

As the Creative Director I love it all. At SUJÁN we don’t use interior designers, it is done by me and my husband and our team so everything you see and touch has been personally chosen by us. The new library and bar at SUJÁN Sher Bagh is truly exquisite and everyone who has seen it so far just wants to move in! I also adore our new stables and paddocks at SUJÁN JAWAI!

 

What contribution during your time at your properties are you most proud of?

Our commitment and dedication to conservation. We have used our model of responsible conservation tourism to make a positive impact on the environment, our wilderness and our local ​communities.

 

How do you, your team and guests stay connected to your local community?

Our team are mostly all from the local communities, so they are connected already.

When our guests visit us at SUJÁN in our remote wilderness locations they are naturally immersed in the locale. They naturally experience and see the work we are doing, they become ambassadors for our projects. At SUJÁN we connect you uncontrived to the very heart of our communities and our local culture through our experiences we offer and through your daily interactions with our teams. We do a huge amount of work with our communities, whether it be through Education, and the 13 schools we have under our care in the villages, through local employment, through sanitation and health, our free mobile medical health care service we run or through our learning programs. Our communities are engrained in our very essence.

 

A conservation contribution is added to each stay, per person, per night, as a contribution to our foundation. Through this contribution, every guest who stays with us is not only helping to conserve and expand natural habitats, but also contributes to our conservation and community development projects in the area.

 

Ensuring that our local communities understand and benefit from the existence of each SUJÁN is a crucial element of our responsible tourism model. Our long-term community development goal is designed to improve the quality of living, health & sanitation, education & future for our communities.

 

Any career advice for aspiring women in the travel and hospitality industry?

Just go for it! We have always endorsed an equal balance between men and women in our sector. Being an equal opportunity employer, we ensure equal access to learning and growth opportunities, promotion and career progression and pay parity. Another way of ensuring a higher participation of women in workforce is by providing a safe, positive and ethical work environment.

At all three of our camps in India, we have females in key front of house managerial positions as well as in our Corporate Office Marketing, Sales, HR and Communications teams. Diversity & Inclusion is something Jaisal and I are personally driving from the top. We are sure that the needle is slowly but surely moving in the positive direction.

 

Is there a special touch that you believe women bring to a General Manger role?

Attention to detail. Each SUJÁN camp is an extension of my husband Jaisal’s and my home, in the places that we know intimately and treasure. Often as the key home maker in a family set up, I feel women in a GM role take on a hotel or property with the same pride as they would their own home. ( If they are good!)  From the welcome, to how you are treated, the house keeping, and women are often very natural at this role. At SUJÁN we welcome all our guests with warm and genuine service.

 

What lead you to work in the travel and hospitality industry? What is your favorite advice that did you receive from a mentor that inspired you to move forward in your career?

When I met my husband Jaisal, he had founded SUJÁN and opened SUJÁN Sher Bagh on some family land on the outskirts of Ranthambhore National Park, a responsible tented camp—one that would become India’s pioneering model for positive-impact, responsible tourism. The aim was to share the unique wilderness of Ranthambhore he called home, with people from around the world, whilst and at the same time making a contribution to conservation. With SUJÁN camps in Ranthambhore, Jawai Bandh, Jaisalmer, our conservation initiatives run across several districts of Rajasthan with a focus on four tenets: conservation of biodiversity, holistic community development, and the preservation of culture and heritage.

Marijke Mulder, General Manager of Kasiiya

Peninsula Papagayo, Costa Rica

Learn more about Kasiiya.

 

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

For me, it is a day that commemorates how many women have had to fight and stand tall for us to be considered equals in our societies. It reminds me of not taking things for granted, never accept a “you cannot do this because you are a woman”, and to keep pursuing the dream of seeing more women in the world take their rightful place in leadership roles and finding their strong voice.

 

What is your favorite detail, hidden gem, or insider tip at your property? 

I believe what makes Kasiiya unique is the ability to find a moment of undisturbed peace where you can connect with your most inner self, which is such a luxury in this fast-paced world. May that connection happen floating in the ocean, sipping coffee before dawn from your private deck, watching one of those amazing colorful sunsets or staring up at the stars after dinner. It is a magical and personal time that everyone should take for themselves while enjoying this beautiful place.

 

What contribution during your time at your property are you most proud of?

Building a team of local men and women who are committed to this hotel as much as the project is committed to them and their communities, and who show that daily through their hard work and genuine smiles.

 

How do you, your team and guests stay connected to your local community? 

We live here, we listen, we care, and we try to be of help wherever we can. Often this passion about our culture, the way we are and have grown up in our country, is what we like to share with our guests, who in their turn listen and care as well, for the communities they came to visit.

 

Any career advice for aspiring women in the travel and hospitality industry? 

Work hard, travel a lot, learn from whoever is willing to teach and don’t stop until you have reached your goals. Don’t settle for what other believe is the “right way” to live life and break all paradigms. Finally, yes, you can have it all! The dream job, the family, the nomad life, the trips to new places, the good times, anything you set your mind to, just never settle for less than happiness. 

 

What lead you to work in the travel and hospitality industry? What is your favorite advice that did you receive from a mentor that inspired you to move forward in your career?

My own passion for traveling and seeing the world is probably what got me started. Meeting people from all paths of life and different parts of the world is what kept me moving in the hospitality business. I love to see people discover the wonders of a new place, connect with people from such a different background. It is constantly refreshing to see where I live through someone’s eyes who experiences it for the first time, it makes me grateful for being wherever I am. On that journey I was inspired by lodge owners and management companies who didn’t build hotels just to make a profit for themselves. People who truly cared about leaving a place better than what it used to be, through conservation, education, work opportunities, sustainability practices and genuine involvement with the local communities. The belief that tourism can be a vehicle for real progress for everyone is what convinces me every day that I chose the right career.

 

 

Claudia Bosch, President of Grupo Alta, Casa Palopó and Villa Bokéh

Antigua & Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Learn more about Casa Palopó and Villa Bokéh.

 

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

It’s a very well deserved recognition for women all over the word that are making extraordinary changes for a better humanity. It’s definitely a celebration.

 

How did you weather the pandemic and keep your team motivated?  

We never stopped.  If guests could not come to us we came to them in all sorts of ways.   From videos, to gourmet boxes with our hotel goodies.   For sure that kept us busy and optimistic at all times.

 

What is your favorite detail, hidden gem, or insider tip at your properties?

In Villa Bokeh my favorite detail is how all the inside decorations are made by Guatemalan artisans and how we were able to give a second life to most of our furniture.   It’s amazing how beautiful it looks and what a warm feeling it gives to the ambiance.    A fun hidden tip would be to look for the elf’s in the garden, kids love it.

 

What contribution during your time at your property are you most proud of?  

I believe my best contribution to my country and to the industry has been to open that little window for the world to see us.  To show through different ways that in Guatemala there are so many beautiful things to share. From the Mayas to the beautiful rainy forests, Ancient Cities and so much culture that we have to share with the world.   It’s like some of our little towns are frozen in time with their natives in ancient times and then to go to your luxury and comfortable hotel with great food and amenities, it just gives you the best of all worlds.

 

How do you, your team and guests stay connected to your local community?

We deeply believe on the importance of connecting with our community where ever we go.   In Casa Palopo we lead the project “Pintando Santa Catarina Palopó.”  Here through art painting the communities houses we have been able to connect with them in a personal level.   It has been proven that when you take care of your home, it produces a domino effect on taking better care of your whole environment.   We have painted 500 houses, where the family collaborates with volunteers.   With this project, the community of Santa Catarina Palopo has started 15 new businesses and attracted thousand of tourist since it has become a very pictures town. It has motivated the economy and promoted well-being of the community.  You can follow their latest projects and homes on Instagram at: @pintandosantacatarinapalopo.

 

Any career advice for aspiring women in the travel and hospitality industry?

Be yourself and enjoy the ride.

 

Is there a special touch that you believe women bring as a founder of a company?  

Usually women are more focused on detail.  I feel this gives another perspective to hospitality.

 

What lead you to work in the travel and hospitality industry? What is your favorite advice that did you receive from a mentor that inspired you to move forward in your career?

I have always loved to host people in my house, specially when someone is coming from abroad. For me to show my country is a privilege that I enjoy every day. I discover something new with every guest. To see the face of our guests when they see our volcanoes and live the energy of Lake Atitlán. Then in Antigua walking the streets with all the little stores and with our people that are so naturally friendly. That is what motivates me and leads me to keep growing in this type of industry.

 

The favorite advice I have receive from a mentor is that in the hospitality business the best way to navigate it is to enjoy every part of it. So that’s what I do!

 

Contact

Email: mail@hiddendoorwaystravel.com

Website: www.hiddendoorwaystravel.com

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