Hotel con Corazon: overnight stay in a hotel with a beautiful mission
About ten years ago, two Dutch people came to Nicaragua with only one dream: successful entrepreneurship while at the same time doing something meaningful for the local population. And so it was that Hotel con Corazón was born. A 3-star boutique hotel in colonial Granada, of which all profits go to educational projects. It is a success story not only for the guests and staff, but also for the hundreds of children who can now have a great future thanks to this hotel.
Onno Oostveen and Marcel Zuidhof first arrived in Nicaragua in 2006. They longed to do something positive that was both entrepreneurial and socially meaningful. At a time when crowdfunding was still an unknown concept, the two Dutch entrepreneurs had to gather the money needed in bits and pieces, but two years later, the doors of Hotel con Corazón opened. A day after the opening party, Lonely Planet visited and within no time the hotel ranked number one on all major booking and review sites – where it still stands today.
Education in Nicaragua
Social entrepreneurship in Nicaragua: how does it work? In the atmospheric courtyard of the hotel, I take my seat between the palms and hammocks next to Marcela Mayorga, the manager of the education program at Hotel con Corazón. “In a country like Nicaragua, most people go into either education or healthcare. I chose for the first option, because there is much to be improved still in the field of education, especially in rural areas.” The foundation behind Hotel con Corazón, where 100% of the profit goes to, focuses on Granada’s countryside where the quality of education leaves much to be desired. In the mornings, the children follow their regular classes at school. To bolster this, the foundation provides a team of six teachers that prepare their lessons in the hotel in the morning and then teach an adapted programme at the local schools in the outskirts of Granada in the afternoon.
“These children may also dream”
Marcela: “These teachers teach subjects, such as language and mathematics, but the idea is also to stimulate the will to study. Very few children in the countryside finish their schooling. Thanks to this project, many children now not only finish their primary school, but even enter high school and pursue further studies. These children have dreams and deserve a chance to follow them. Therefore, we develop workshops to let them think about what they want and to teach them to recognize opportunities. In a country where the future is often seen as hopeless for many children, we teach them to open new doors.”
Hotel con Corazón takes this initiative further by also offering scholarships for promising students, planning home visits to monitor home situations and educating parents on all kinds of important topics. Are you having breakfast in the hotel on a Saturday morning? Then you will probably see students in study groups working on improving their English language skills.
The fifteen rooms in the hotel are almost always fully booked and the positive reviews reveal why. The secret of Hotel con Corazón? According to hotel manager Boris Françoise, it is the atmosphere. “It’s about balance. We have a beautiful colonial building, a great team and a hotel that, although perhaps not fancy, is comfortable. Ultimately, it’s about the feeling. The employees are proud of their work, because they are doing something important. It makes us authentic.”
The staff work with pride each day and you can feel this in the way they greet you, serve you breakfast and chat with you. For them, Hotel con Corazón is also an important opportunity. All twenty employees started working at the hotel without a degree and are fully trained internally. “We also want to encourage them to further pursue their studies,” Boris explains. “They feel good and useful here, which gives them confidence.” With goosebumps on his arms, he shares about a waiter who left last month. “Eight years ago he came to us without any experience and with his head hanging low. Now he has opened his own bar on the island of Ometepe. We could not have expected that in the beginning. I am glad that I encouraged him to develop himself.”
This is not the only success story though. Of the 266 children who are supported by the foundation, the first ones have successfully completed the entire course. One of the graduates now works as a teacher in Granada, and another has a job as a team manager at Coca Cola in the capital. These are the first successes of many more to follow.
The mission of Hotel con Corazón
In the hall of the hotel there is a large mural with the text ’10 hotels in 10 years’. Hotel con Corazón wants to expand and roll out the international concept that it pursued from the beginning. Ten hotels in ten years might have proved a bit too ambitious, but there are certainly more hotels on the way. At the moment, crowdfunding for new hotels in Cambodia, Suriname and a second hotel in Nicaragua (León) is in full swing – all under the wings of Dutch entrepreneurs with a mission. Like the hotel in Granada, these hotels will carry a warm heart towards the local population and a will to support them as much as possible.
And that warm heart, that is what Hotel con Corazón is all about. In Boris’ words, “I could have chosen a life with a nice car but instead I took the opportunity to do beautiful things. At Hotel con Corazón, guests have a pleasant stay, the staff do a beautiful job and hundreds of children receive a better future. Here nobody loses.”