Situated atop the rainforest canopy with a 360 degree view of the Pacific ocean, the five star boutique hotel “La Mansion Inn” is not your average luxury retreat, thanks to its owner Harry Bodaan, whose motto is: “Come as a Guest, Leave as a Friend.”
This spectacular hotel is located a few kilometers from the entrance to the national park of Manuel Antonio. One of 20 national parks in Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio gained additional notoriety this year when Forbes Magazine placed it among the “top 12 most beautiful national parks in the world.”
With sophisticated charm, the 23 room La Mansion Inn features a fully appointed Presidential Suite, four penthouses, junior suites and deluxe rooms elegantly equipped with all the amenities one could wish for in this jungle paradise.
Each residence offers breathtaking views of the ocean and the rainforest with double sliding doors that open to a private balcony. On the rooftop, the Sky Lounge sits like a cloud above the ocean, where guests can lounge in the pool while sitting on underwater stools at an elegant canopied bar, or relax in the hot tub that mimics an infinity pool.
But there is much more to the La Mansion Inn than meets the eye, much more than the first class service, the contemporary architecture and surrounding beauty of the rainforest and warm ocean breezes. There is a humanitarian element, and deep sincere caring on the part of the owner – Harry Bodaan – and the staff that supports this distinguished hotel.
Thanks to Bodaan’s philanthropic efforts, the hotel sets a standard of community service that is exemplary, and many employees participate in non-profit activities. Bodaan himself is responsible for organizing the Traveler’s Aid Program, designed to assist local visitors in distress; anyone victimized by crime or hardship.
“I initiated the Traveler’s Aid Program whereby any tourist who is robbed and left with nothing can come to La Mansion Inn and we will put them up for free,” says Bodaan. “We help these people by giving them access to computers and telephones, so they can contact their families and their banks to cancel credit cards and important documents. We even give them money for bus tickets and such, whatever they might need,” Bodaan adds.
Truly, this good-hearted service from a five star deluxe hotel seems above and beyond the call of duty. But for Bodaan, it is fundamental to one’s social responsibility, and it appears he has a life-spring of empathy for humanity exemplified by the emotion he expresses when describing his innate desire to help people in need.
“I believe we are all here to help people. That’s what we are supposed to do in our lives, to make things better,” Bodaan states with dignified compassion.
The program Bodaan designed is paid for by donations from the guests who visit La Mansion Inn. On a strictly voluntary basis, a dollar–per–day gift to the Traveler’s Aid Fund is proposed to guests. “If a visitor stays five days, that’s a five dollar donation which is not much, and most people are happy to give.” Over the course of a year, the fund has potential to grow significantly.
But according to Bodaan, crime has dropped in recent years, thanks in part to efforts from the local municipality of Quepos, the capital of the province of Aguirre, situated on the southern Pacific coast just a few miles from La Mansion Inn.
Bodaan, who is active in local politics, is proud of the recent accomplishments regarding public safety: “I’m happy to say the crime rate is at its lowest level in ten years.”
When the funds from the Traveler’s Aid Program are not accessed, the money is distributed to other local social organizations and non-profits that need assistance.
“There are many other programs we support: Kids Saving the Rainforest, and the local schools. We help provide computers for the classrooms; we raise funds for the Mono Titi Alliance, which helps save the squirrel monkeys…”
And the list goes on, and on.
“The Traveler’s Aid Program pays for itself,” Bodaan explains. “The problem is that we currently have only about five or six hotels that participate in the program. Can you imagine how much revenue could be raised if all 87 hotels [that are in the area] participated, and the benefits that would bring to the community?”
Bodaan, originally from Holland, built La Mansion Inn following an illustrious career in the hospitality industry that began a few decades ago when he was general manager of food and beverage for Hilton Hotels after immigrating to Washington DC from Europe. Later, as director of the NationalPress Club, Washington DC, he met “world leaders, prime ministers, kings and queens,” managing as many as ten thousand visitors per week.
After 12 years in that arena, Bodaan was recruited by the former Soviet Union to open the first International Press Club in Moscow, modeled after the Press Club in Washington DC, a position Bodaan held for three years.
It was a long and circuitous route that eventually led Bodaan to Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, where his intention was to retire.
“It’s ridiculous, because I came here to slow down, but I’ve never worked so hard in all my life.”
In addition to the Traveler’s Aid Program, Bodaan has taken his staff under his proverbial wing building strong relationships while mentoring those with ambition. He has taken his employees to Europe and to the United States “to help familiarize them with the world.” He encourages his ‘professional family’ to become involved in outside projects to benefit their community, and volunteer for social causes.
Bodaan – who also serves as President of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Tourism of Quepos and Chairman of Sister Cities International Quepos – seems to personify the humanitarian spirit. It is this extra element of community service and sincere compassion for humanity, coupled with five-star elegance and sophisticated style that separates La Mansion Inn from any other first class property in the paradise known as Manuel Antonio.
“It’s all about building relationships, and bringing people together. Like I said, our motto is: Come as a Guest, Leave as a Friend.”
(this is part I of III articles: Harry Bodaan, Politics and Culture in Costa Rica)