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Good Hotel, Antigua Guatemala

September 13, 2017

For once, instead of talking about restaurants, we want to introduce you to a hotel. A somewhat special one, to be honest. In fact, it wasn’t conceived and built for commercial purposes but to a completely altruistic end.

Impossible, you’ll probably say. And yet, not only is it possible, it’s already operational. The magic formula is Profit for Non-profit. The concept seemed so ingenious to us, that we decided to look into it a little deeper for you. To learn more about the Good Hotel, located in Calle del Hermano Pedro, we met with the current director Cristina Rebner, who has followed this innovative project from the beginning.

DA: Give us a few details about the Good Hotel.

Cristina Rebner, manager Good Hotel, Antigua Guatemala

Cristina: We are about to celebrate our first anniversary. In fact, the Good Hotel was inaugurated in September 2016. We have 20 rooms in four different categories, from basic with separable double beds to mezzanine with Dutch size beds (which are big!).

DA: What sets the Good Hotel apart from other establishments in the same category?

Cristina: The most significant difference is the purpose by which it was born. Our CEO is a Dutch by the name of Marten Dresen who is also the founder of the NGO Children of Guatemala.

All started when Marten came to study Spanish a little over a decade ago. While volunteering at a village school he met Mirna, a girl who was always barefoot. He spontaneously decided to get some help for the family and wrote his family and friends in Netherlands asking for a contribution. Unexpectedly, he got much more than he needed. That’s how the idea of the NGO came up. Today, Children of Guatemala is teaching more than five hundred students in two schools in Ciudad Vieja and one in San Lorenzo.

Room at Good Hotel, Antigua GuatemalaDA: How’s the Good Hotel related to the NGO?

Cristina: As the students grew, the question arose what they would do after finishing school? It seemed like a logical step to search for a way to generate employment for them. That’s how the idea of the hotel was born.

DA: Building a hotel is a considerable investment. How is it financed?

Cristina: In a very innovative way in which investors do not receive dividends, but tax benefits. We have built a system whereby the profits of the hotel are donated to Niños de Guatemala. Whenever donations are made, the investors receive the tax benefit. It is a win win for everyone.

DA: How many hotels are there?

Cristina: We have a hotel in London and this one in Antigua. Both support Niños de Guatemala. However, another objective of each hotel is to support its local community.

The hotels are based on three social pillars. The first is Profit for Non-profit. This means that they operate as regular businesses but the profits go to charity.

The second pillar consists of occupying 75% of the jobs in the hotel by mothers and fathers of the children of Niños de Guatemala. Most of them have never worked in the hotel business. Here they receive a thorough training and the result is a highly motivated team.

Restaurant at Good Hotel, Antigua GuatemalaOur longterm goal is to become a training center for our children to turn them into professionals. To this end, we seek a collaboration with other hotels, thus creating job opportunities and qualified personnel. The first step was to open the hotel and get it up and running. Now, our next goal is to implement the training center.

The third social pillar of Good Hotel is to support local handicrafts. In fact, besides the design that was made in Holland, the hotel was built predominantly with local resources. Traditional elements like the Spanish terrace were taken and merged with a modern minimalism that has its own charm. All the furniture was made by local craftsmen who gave them an amazing finish.

DA: At what point did you get involved in this project? 

Cristina: I joined the Good Hotel in Amsterdam in October 2015. In May of the following year I was offered to be part in this project. At that time the construction of the hotel was just starting.

I had never been to Guatemala before and this hotel being the heart of the company, it was very important for me be here. After all, this is where whole idea was born and it’s here where the impact of our social model is most visible.

DA: Was difficult for you?

Lobby, Good Hotel, Antigua GuatemalaCristina: It’s been a challenge but I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. For me, the opening of this hotel was the best gift of my life. I feel totally linked to the project and our team. Helping them and watching them grow is a very gratifying experience.

As for the hotel, it was built in record time and with excellent quality. Exactly eleven months passed from the demolition of the old building until the grand opening. Nevertheless, nothing was left to coincidence. It’s very important for us to demonstrate that, although it’s a social project, the quality and service are premium.

We have done a great job at positioning the hotel and managed to put it on the map in very short time. We have a good occupation rate and are currently ranked ninth on Tripadvisor.

And this is only phase one. If all goes according to plan, we’ll be developing the second phase on the lot next door at end of next year.

DA: Let’s talk about the restaurant.

Cristina: Let me introduce you to our chef Elsa then.

Elsa and Marita, Good Hotel, Antigua GuatemalaElsa: My name is Elsa Brito and I am in charge of the kitchen. It’s very rewarding for me to work here. Besides the social purpose of the hotel, what I love most is the harmonious working environment and the motivated team we have.

DA: Who created the menu?

Cristina: I designed it with an intern from Holland. He did a very good job with the selection of drinks and the breakfast menu. Currently we have seven options that have been well received by our guests. A tapas menu was incorporated later on. One year after the launch, we are now evaluating what has worked to define the future shape of the menu.

DA: Who do you primarily cater to?

Cristina: First and foremost to our guests, obviously. However, our breakfast options are becoming increasingly popular and we are aiming at local customers with them. We also see a significant potential in larger groups that use the Good Hotel for meetings or trainings.

Elsa: Our menu is constantly evolving. We've added smoothies, sandwiches, tapas and crepes as sweet options well.

Our medium term goal, though, is to develop into an premium restaurant with the same service quality we provide for the rooms.

DA: When can we expect a lunch and dinner menu?

Elsa: We're working on it; possibly by the start of the high season in November.

Breakfast, Good Hotel, Antigua GuatemalaCristina: I’d also like to point out that we always prefer to work with suppliers with a social mission that fit in with our vision.

To give you an example of our social policy, our chef Elsa is supported in the kitchen by Marita, a mother of four. Three of her kids study at a school of Niños de Guatemala. Marita has learned a lot from Elsa and the two make a very good team.

We also accept INTECAP interns in the kitchen who receive an excellent practical training in exchange for their labor. This is also part of our mission to promote education wherever possible, not only in our schools.

Elsa: I’m the best example of the social commitment of the Good Hotel, as I have the opportunity to work here although I’m still studying. That's something no one offered me until I applied here.

Cristina: The people are what matters most for the Good Hotel, starting with the guests, the staff, the suppliers, everyone who somehow interacts with the project. Those people we look after and protect as best we can.

See the menu of Good Hotel