Based in Oaxaca, Mexico, Hotel con Corazón is a hotel with a socially responsible twist. In addition to its hotel rooms business, the establishment invests profits in education aimed at helping local children from disadvantaged backgrounds or with limited financial resources to enjoy a future in which they can independently provide for their livelihood.
We felt strongly about doing something good with the profit from the hotel, and education is a great place to start.
Marcel Zuidhof and Onno Oostveen set up Hotel con Corazón about 10 years ago. After living in Nicaragua for two years, they built the first hotel to set up their educational projects. After seeing the enormous success of hundreds of educated children, they decided to expand their concept and opened another Hotel con Corazón located in Oaxaca, Mexico. Saskia Fiselier and Erica Donkers were involved from day one as co-founders of its hotel in Oaxaca. Nowadays they take care of the local management of Hotel con Corazón in Oaxaca. Today Marcel and Onno are based in an office in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. “We felt strongly about doing something good with the profit from the hotel, and education is a great place to start,” comments Marcel. “We are now helping young people to pursue education, and we provide practical training in the hotel for jobs such as housekeeping, receptionists and cooks.”
Around 50% of the children in the city of Oaxaca and surroundings don’t graduate from high school. Hotel con Corazón tries to remedy this by providing three-year scholarships and motivational activities to students from marginalised areas. The system was designed together with local NGOs specialised in education. It focuses on children in their last years of secondary school, giving them a chance to receive a scholarship and providing a programme, with activities such as English lessons, mentoring and tutoring on Saturdays helping them through a more extended school career.
We are now helping young people to pursue education, and we provide practical training in the hotel for jobs such as housekeeping, receptionists and cooks.
The founders have serious ambitions: their long-term goal is to open three new similar establishments in Latin America over the next five years. “In addition to these long-term plans, we recently worked on our impact strategy together with Marieke Vollebregt, former Associate at Strategy&,” Marcel continues: “We asked her to design and partly implement an impact strategy for Hotel con Corazón Oaxaca over eight weeks.”
“During my first weeks in Oaxaca, I talked to all the stakeholders and collected existing ideas and added new ones,” says Marieke. “That led to a very long list of concepts, but of course that doesn’t make for a strategy. So I thought to myself: ‘How do these ideas really contribute to achieving the overall goal of Hotel con Corazón?’ Together with the stakeholders, we assigned priorities to the ideas and weighted them, also taking into account the required investment in time and money. Finally, I summarised my findings by making a roadmap and calculating the total impact.”
Marieke goes on to explain how there is a trade-off in terms of scope between broad and deep. “For example, you can have all students in Oaxaca visit the hotel for a one-day training, which increases reach, or you can give ten people a scholarship for three years, which makes a deeper impact for these students. Which one is better? That is not always easy to decide. During my secondment, I also tried to make the strategy as concrete and easy to implement as possible. This helped Hotel con Corazón really get to work with it in practice.
“This secondment has given me a great deal of insight into the possibilities in the field of corporate social responsibility. I learned the most from Hotel con Corazón itself. Witnessing their efforts and achievements in running their business in a socially and ecologically responsible way made me realise that companies can make a big change in the world with relatively little effort. I look forward to implementing the things I’ve learned back in the Netherlands.”