When did you open Hotel Doña Esther and what inspired you to do so?
We opened Hotel Doña Esther in June 2003. We had lived in Ecuador before, but had left the country in 2000 to work and live a few years in Guatemala. There we noticed we had bonded with Ecuador too much - our daughter was born here for example - and went back in 2003 with a plan to start our own business.
We travelled a lot ourselves those years and knew we had an idea which hotel fitted our plans. Hotel Doña Esther was one of the places we found on the internet which inspired us. In size, coziness & style. Imagine the surprise when we came back here and noticed the hotel was for sale! It included a restaurant, but what the heck… we managed to buy the place.
What do you love most about Hotel Doña Esther?
We, that’s my husband Arthur and me, Wendy, still love the colonial style of our hotel. Actually, only the base is older, like 140 years, while the rest was built later. The colonial style means balconies and an inner patio, which we made into a garden.
All the rooms are built around the patio. Many of our guests that enter the place are surprised by the peace and beauty. You don’t expect that from the outside. Furthermore, we managed to create a special ambience, being a hotel run by a small team approaching every guest in a personal and non-formal way. We'll do (almost) everything for our guests, because our main goal is to make them happy.
What has been the most rewarding part of opening Hotel Doña Esther?
The most rewarding part is of course happy guests! We’ve had many, international and national. Of course this doesn't mean you don't sometimes meet an unhappy one, but so be it. We surely do our best to avoid unhappy guests.
What has been your biggest challenge and how have you overcome this?
Covid-19, I’m afraid. If we would have known before that this would take more than two years… wow. But then again, we are still here and probably coming back stronger.
The other big challenge in the beginning was mastering the kitchen and restaurant. My hobby is cooking, but running a restaurant is something completely different. I think it took us about a year to make everything our own and make improvements. It took a while to teach the staff our way of cooking, our dishes. Now we can say, it was the restaurant that got us through the pandemic.
Tell us about your team!
Our team are local men and women (2 men, 5 women). In the first years, this was a difficult part too. It takes a while to create a team that works perfectly together. Now, most of the staff are working with us for years. They are all not especially trained in tourism, but they learned a lot on the spot. They are very friendly with our guests, and will never hesitate to do something extra.
How has Tab helped Hotel Doña Esther?
Again, during the pandemic, we were obliged to review our expenditure. The credit card company was very expensive. I saw ads from Tab, first The Guide, and later the payment facilities. It turned out to be more economical than conventional credit card methods. I asked around with hotels that already had Tab and we decided to try it out. No regrets!
What is your favorite feature that Tab offers? Why?
I think we like the selfie feature. It gives our staff a chance to chat with people while explaining. And since it is mostly a funny thing - people taking selfies at the reception desk or in our restaurant - it makes most customers laugh. The customer service is another feature I like, always a quick response and very friendly!
Why would you recommend Tab to another business?
The cost is a very important argument, the excellent customer service and the simple way of operating.
Why is Otavalo a great place to visit?
Otavalo is known for its Saturday crafts market. There is a smaller market every day of the week. The Otavalo people have always been good craftsmen. Besides that, we have a lot more to offer. The area around Otavalo is beautiful for hiking, visiting lakes, nature parks, climbing volcanoes. It’s beautiful here in the green mountains. Very relaxed.
What is your advice for someone looking to start their own tourism business?
Just don't ever think it is an easy job. It will cost you time, money and stress to run a hotel business. Especially when you live in another country to your own. On the other hand, it is a very rewarding job when you do it right. You get to know a lot of nice people and hear their stories. It gives you a certain freedom. At least when you know how to delegate work! We have been doing this for almost 19 years now, and we have never regretted the choice we made many years ago.
You can find out more about Hotel Doña Esther on their website at otavalohotel.com.