Meet the women behind our brand

SLH is still dedicated to celebrating and sharing all of the women who make up our brand. Women around the globe are uniting together to bring change to the world through equal treatment and equal opportunities for all women, everywhere. We reached out to the many women who make SLH magic, from hotel Owners to General Managers to some of our very own SLH staff. We believe women are a force to be reckoned with, and our team of truly remarkable hoteliers and employees exemplify it. We sat down with a few more of them to get their thoughts on being a woman in the luxury travel industry.

CasaSur Recoleta in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Estefania Arougetti, Owner and Director of CasaSur Recoleta in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Estefania Arougetti

Tell us about your journey achieving success in the luxury hotel industry…

Just as I finished College, I started working at CasaSur Recoleta, our first Hotel in Buenos Aires. Due to my lack of experience in the industry, I thought it would a necessary step to spend a few months in every area of the business, understanding and acquiring the knowledge of how a hotel really works. After a year or so, I was able to improve some procedures allowing the hotel to function in a more efficient manner. In a few years’ time, we evolved from a single family run hotel to a successful four-hotel business.

What challenges have you faced being a women in the hospitality industry?

I was lucky to be highly respected by my peers as I grew up in the industry. My biggest challenge was becoming a mother and being able to balance my life with two children and the responsibility of running 4 hotels at the same time.

What do you think needs to happen to ensure women are given equal opportunities in the industry?

In our country, the legislation should change because men do not have maternity leave and that means that many companies do not want to hire women in hierarchical positions. In our case in particular, all of our general managers (in our 4 hotels) are women. We believe that in higher positions, women are more dedicated and more stable than men.

What motivates you?

I am lucky to work in an amazing industry. I wake up every day happy to do my job. The thing that motivates me the most is to continue growing in this business, and to be a role model for my kids, showing them that you can manage to do it all; work and be a good mother.

Director of Quality Assurance

Director of Quality Assurance - Silje White

Silje White

Tell us about your journey of achieving success in the luxury hotel industry...

Passion and hard work!! From an early age I was introduced to the world of travel through my parents and with a mother who is a stickler for details and precision it became natural to look for perfection in everything I was interested in. I have always been a believer in hard, steady work and delivering at the best of my abilities. If you have a passion for something it will shine through in your role and you will never have a day when challenges can't be overcome with a positive vibe. Monday's should be the best day of the week!

What challenges have you faced being a women in the hospitality industry?

I have been lucky to always have had support from my peers and managers throughout my career, but in general I would say that the biggest challenge in any industry regardless is being a working mum! Some countries are better than others in supporting families but there is still a long way to go in making a balanced life for all.

What do you think needs to happen to ensure women are given equal opportunities in the industry?

There are always two sides to every story... women will have to step up and offer their skills and knowledge with confidence and the industry needs to embrace the skills on an equal level regardless of gender. More and more women are in leading positions and we need to empower each other to reach those roles we deserve. Ladies - be supportive of each other!

What motivates you?

Working in an industry that I have great passion for! Being passionate about what you do on a daily basis also brings out the fighter instinct, the empathetic, the knowledge seeker, the achiever and the hard worker. In my role in particular I also get motivated by helping and guiding hotels in achieving better if needed but also nourish my knowledge with those high achievers whom I can learn from.

137 Pillars House, Dukes, Aleenta Resort

dukes London in london, UK

Debrah Dhugga, Managing Director at Dukes London in London, UK.

What challenges have you faced being a woman in the industry?

One of the greatest challenges for anyone who runs a business is the sheer amount of hours you have to put in and trying to do it as well as manage being a mum. I’ve done it by having a great deal of tolerance, organisation and a very understanding partner supporting me. I love being described as a “working mother” because it sums up everything about me - that’s exactly what I am!

What do you think needs to happen to ensure women are given equal opportunities in the industry?

It’s vital to lead by example, and I feel privileged to be in the position to be someone that women can look up to. My advice is to hold your head high and believe in yourself! I am very committed to mentoring young women, and I think the key is to get hands on experience in your chosen industry and to plan your career path from an early stage.

Aleenta & akyra Hotels, Thailand

Anchalika Kijkanakorn, Founder, Owner & Managing Director at Akyra Beach Club Phuket, Akyra Thonglor Bangkok, Akyra Sukhumvit Bangkok, Akyra Manor Chiang Mai, Aleenta Resort and Spa Phuket and Aleenta Resort and Spa Hua Hin in Thailand. 

Tell us about your journey of achieving success in the luxury hotel industry. 

The Aleenta brand started 13 years ago with the first property, which was formerly my family beach house. I was looking to offer an unforgettable independently minded experience, which is why all of my hotels are part of the SLH family. The journey has been exciting, and from the first hotel we grew organically to six with plans to open further properties in Southeast Asia. 

Why is it important to have women fully represented in our industries at all levels?

Women have as much as men to offer in terms of perspective and skills, so why shouldn’t we be represented equally?

137 Pillars House in Chiang Mai, Thailand

 Anne Arrowsmith, General Manager at 137 Pillars House in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Tell us about your journey of achieving success in the luxury hotel industry...

Like many a journey is was rather circuitous. My first experience was accidental and prompted by a desire to travel, thus as a student I managed to be hired as a dish washer for the summer season at a hotel in Alberta, Canada. Fortune was on my side as on reporting to HR, they instantly assessed that I perhaps wasn’t ideal for the duties and instantly elevated me to assistant garde manger!

Again, motivated by travel, I was engaged by P&O SN Co (at that time owner of Princess Cruises) and spent four years in operations in the Front Office rising to Senior Assistant Purser. Back in the day, female officers were hired for administrative versus hospitality skills and interestingly I was the first female to be hired that broke that mold.

And the rest, as they say, is history. The opportunity to manage 137 Pillars House presented itself and like all prior steps in my career, it felt eminently right.

What do you think needs to happen to ensure women are given equal opportunities in the industry?

In the past decade or so, I’ve seen many positive changes. Whilst being part of strong female teams in my time, the number of female GM’s was and remains entirely out of kilter and a more expansive approach to leadership positions is needed within the industry.

Essentially talent, in all its forms, needs to be recognised and rewarded purely on merit and competencies, with biases and insecurities relegated to the ‘ash heap of history’. I have never expected or wanted an unfair advantage over anyone, I simply desired and continue to promote “an even playing field” for all.

What makes you independently minded?

My grandfather had a wonderful approach to life “always think yourself as good as anyone else but never better”. This simple wisdom overcomes pretty much every prejudice – gender, race and religion while at the same time ensuring that you don’t take yourself too seriously.

I was also blessed in being raised in a loving working-class environment where our home was a magnet for friends and family – everyone was welcome and food, laughter and conversation was in large supply. This was hospitality and generosity in its truest form and has fueled my wanderlust, confidence and adventures.

International Women's Day

Ett Hem in Stockholm, Sweden

Jeanette Mix, Founder & Owner and Helena Lundqvist, General Manager of Ett Hem in Stockholm, Sweden. 

What challenges have you faced being a women in this industry?

I have always felt strong, safe and empowered by the fact that we are a hotel designed and led by women. All our senior positions are held by women, with Helena Lundqvist serving as our General Manager. 

What do you think needs to happen to ensure women are given equal opportunities in the industry?

I believe the future is bright. As we see more women in leading positions emerge in our industry, younger women will naturally look to raise the bar for their career goals even further.

Casa Colonial Beach & Spa in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

Sarah Garcia, President & CEO of Casa Colonial Beach & Spa in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.

Tell us about your journey of achieving success in the luxury hotel industry.

I started my career as an architect, where I designed hotels and luxury homes in Dominican Republic, New York and Europe. My father, who founded VH Hotels, then gave me the opportunity to design two of our properties. Growing up in the hotel business helped me understand how to lead and grow in the industry. I am now an architect and have been the CEO of VH Hotels for over ten years.

What do you think needs to happen to ensure women are given equal opportunities in the industry?

There are more men running the industry, but that is rapidly changing and no one will be able to stop this. Women nowadays are more independent than ever with great access to education, strong professional experience and tonnes of motivation. We are all working hard to be respected for our acts and to thrive in modern society.

Keemala in Phuket, Thailand

Samornpun Somnam, Executive Director – Marketing of Keemala, Thailand.

What motivates you?

Definitely my family and their support for me. I am also motivated by the strong team of colleagues that surround me. I am lucky to be surrounded by strong, capable, independent women both in my personal life and at work.

What do you think needs to happen to ensure women are given equal opportunities in the industry?

I believe that change needs to come from the top, because when the head moves the tail will surely follow. We need to push for an equal opportunity and non-biased workplaces, actively fostering a work environment that promotes gender equality through training, career development and job opportunities.

Nimb Hotel in Copenhagen, Denmark

Iben Marburger Juul, General Manager of Nimb Hotel in Copenhagen, Denmark. 

What motivates you?

I’m motivated by other women in leadership positions. It’s always interesting to see how they achieve a work-life balance. We can learn a lot from each other as long as we are willing to show authenticity rather than a façade.

What do you think needs to happen to ensure women are given equal opportunities in the industry?

It has to be a push/pull effort. Women need to be courageous enough to apply for higher positions and men need to be willing to hire them.

Why is it important to have women fully represented in our industry at all levels?

It’s important because the more balanced we are as an industry, the better we will be able to connect with our guests. At the end of the day, balance is necessary for harmony and harmony creates well-being, which is what we all try to achieve for our guests.

International Women's Day

Cape kudu Hotel & Cape Nidhra Hotel in Thailand

Tirawan Pangsrivongse, Owner of Cape Kudu Hotel and Cape Nidhra Hotel in Thailand. 

What challenges have you faced being a women in this industry?

I feel very fortunate to have been born in Thailand, which is one of the least sexist countries in the world. That means that I have had the opportunity to exercise what I might call ‘the woman’s touch’ without any fear of criticism or censure from colleagues or the public.

What advice would you give to aspiring women in the industry?

I think my best advice would be to take care of the little things, without getting obsessed by them. Offer a personal touch and don’t give up when things get a bit awkward. Believe in what you do and it will succeed.

Kristiania Lech in Lech am Arlberg, Austria

Gertrud Schneider, Owner of Kristiania Lech in Lech am Arlberg, Austria. 

What do you think needs to happen to ensure women are given equal opportunities in the industry?

Although women are particularly well-positioned to lead in the nuanced luxury market, it will take the effort and collaboration of men and women already within the industry to bring about change and more equal leadership teams.

Why is it important to have women fully represented in our industry at all levels?

Sublime beauty and high quality are key factors in the luxury market, and many women are characteristically more in-tune with these intricate and ethereal qualities of luxury. Women are also the main buyers for luxury experiences, making them more attuned to the needs of customers.

Villa della Pergola in Alassio, Italy

Francesca and Silvia Arnaud Ricci, mother and daughter owners of Villa della Pergola in Alassio, Italy. 

Tell us about your journey of achieving success in the luxury hotel industry.

Our journey is kind of different. We were not hoteliers when we first started - boundless love is where our journey began. Love for our city, love for our heritage and love for this beautiful place. It all started in 2006 when my husband and I found out that Villa della Pergola was for sale. The original buyers wanted to destroy everything – it was hard to see a piece of history be destroyed like that. My husband and I got a group of friends together and decided to bid against the buyers. I’m happy to say we won!

What advice would you give to aspiring women in the industry, particularly those with their sights set on being a GM or owner?

If you are a strong woman don’t be scared to show it. Always remember to stay humble and be true to yourself. Women do really run the world. 

Southbridge Napa Valley in Napa Valley, California, US

Marcelle Adderley, General Manager of Southbridge Napa Valley in Napa Valley, California, United States. 

What challenges have you faced being a women in this industry?

Why don’t you pull up a chair and let’s open a fine bottle of Napa Cabernet - we have a lot of catching up to do! Seriously though, a good sense of humour and a thick skin can help navigate most challenges.

What do you think needs to happen to ensure women are given equal opportunities in the industry?

It is quite simple, really. We don’t need special treatment, we simply need equal treatment. Pay us for what we bring to the table, acknowledge what we do and never, ever underestimate our influence and work ethic.

Vice President of PR Worldwide for SLH

Pegi Amarteifio, Vice President of PR Worldwide for SLH. 

How have other women inspired you in the industry?

I’ve always stood side by side with amazing women in my career and been hugely inspired by their incredible talent. Women have taught me everything I know and helped me achieve success, which has encouraged me to always champion talented women.

What advice would you give to women in the industry?

Master your craft and never ever stop learning. Knowledge is power, and it gives you a wealth of confidence when sitting in a boardroom full of men. I have met so many talented women who don’t feel worthy of leading positions, including myself. I never saw too many women of colour in top positions, which used to make me feel self-conscious and at times not good enough. That’s why you should make every year the ‘year of yes’, because you need to grab every opportunity to realise your full worth and potential. Our time is now, so don’t be afraid to speak up and show your skill!