The hospitality industry has long been a boy’s club. Despite the industry’s dependence on women for many lower-level jobs, women hold just 5 percent of CEO positions at U.S. hotel companies, according to a 2016 report by Castell Project and the American Hospitality & Lodging Association.
There is currently no available data on how many hotels are owned by women, and as we know, the recurring issue keeping many women from starting a hotel is lack of access to capital. The amount of money needed can easily surpass six figures, and the networks of investors that can provide that amount of money—such as high-net-worth individuals and venture capital firms—can be hard for women to tap into. If they do find an investor, women-owned businesses often receive less funding and fewer resources—such as mentorship and strategic guidance—than their male counterparts.
Despite these barriers, a small number of female hoteliers are reshaping what it means to be a hospitality entrepreneur. From North America to Southeast Asia, we have curated the top 15 female-founded hotels, which offer unmatched service and a plethora of cultural experiences that will stay with their guests forever.
The Roundtree in Amagansett, New York - Sylvia Wong
Winner of the 2021 Travel and Leisure World’s Best Awards, avid traveler and investor Sylvia Wong opened her boutique hotel the Hamptons with two principles in mind: simple luxury and warm hospitality. The two-acre property features five cottages (one of which is over 250 years old), with a combination of 10 rooms and suites housed throughout a 100-year-old barn and main lodge. Only a one-mile bike ride away from the beach, this hidden gem is the ideal location for guests looking for a secluded, ocean-side getaway. Rooms starting at $595/night.
Boro Hotel, Long Island City, New York - Liz and Antonia Batalias
For years, Long Island City has been hailed as the next Brooklyn, and designated as Queen’s first design-savvy boutique hotel—with an amazing ramen restaurant in the lobby to boot— is Boro Hotel, founded by sisters Liz and Antonia Batalias and operated by General Manager Mary O’Sullivan. Juxtaposing fresh sculptural gardens with industrial interiors, Boro Hotel offers guests unhindered views of the Manhattan skyline, from the red brick houses of Harlem all the way down to One World Trade. Only two stops on the 7 train from Manhattan, Boro is also a great place for a stay-cation. Rooms starting at $119/night.
Warner’s Camp, Adirondacks, New York - Amy Brightman and Jess Moody
An AirBnB vacation rental run like a boutique hotel, Warner’s Camp is the brainchild of couple Amy Brightman and Jess Moody. An ideal spot for a family gathering or weekend away with friends, the property offers guests modern design touches in the heart of the Adirondacks High Peaks area. Warner’s Camp cabin is directly adjacent to a freshwater river and swimming hole for lodgers to enjoy, and is only 10 minutes from Whiteface Ski Resort and 25 minutes from Lake Placid. Rooms starting at $606/night.
The Chanler at Cliff Walk, Newport, Rhode Island - Lani Shufelt
Raised by a hotelier dad, Lani Shufelt grew up working summers at what was formerly known as Cliff Walk Manor—now, she is the proud owner of the reimagined hotel. A 19th century mansion built by New York Congressman John Winthrop Chanler, the historic inn has sprawling manicured gardens (the pride and joy of Shufelt’s dad, whose first passion is landscaping) and a vast view of the Atlantic Ocean. In 2016, Shufelt took full ownership of the luxury hotel that features 20 individually designed rooms overlooking Cliff Walk. Rooms starting at $585/night.
Peter Hunter House Bed & Breakfast in Natchez, Mississippi - Hydie Wahlborg
Founded by Hydie Wahlborg in 2019, the Peter Hunter House is a pre-Civil War era bed and breakfast with classic Southern charm. Built in 1849 in the town of Natchez with sweeping views of the Mississippi River and highly praised for its unmatched hospitality, the cozy hotel has been touted as one of the world’s best B n’ B’s by Travel + Leisure. The property offers 3 rooms, each uniquely designed, with varying rates from Sunday-Wednesday ($115/night) and Thursday-Saturday ($135/night).
The Downtown Clifton, Tucson, Arizona - Moniqua Lane
Tucson native Moniqua Lane bought her first hotel, The Downtown Clifton, in 2012 with a vision to memorialize the city’s past, hiring a team of Tucson natives to preserve the authenticity of the original 1948-built building. The Downtown Clifton is also home to The Red Light Lounge, a casually elegant neighborhood bar offering locally crafted drinks and food in a Sonoran Modern ambiance. Soon to open her second hotel in the city, The Citizen, Lane is focused on honoring the original luster and charm of her hometown with a focus on innovative, small-scale hospitality. Rooms starting at $119/night.
Garden of the Gods Resort and Club, Colorado Springs - Judy Mackey and Brenda Smith
In 2013, healthcare executive Judy Mackey and accounting partner Brenda Smith took over this Colorado Springs oasis with a grand vision: to create a multidisciplinary clinical health and wellness resort. According to Mackey, the most important thing to the hotel team is to enrich their guests’ lives through the “natural, ethereal beauty of the surrounding landscape and hospitality from the hearts of their highly regarded clinicians.” The 90,000-square-foot property boasts a 56-room lodge, access to the 27-hole Kissing Camels Golf Club as well as the Strata Spa and Wellness Center. Booking in advance is essential for lower rates with rooms starting at $400/night.
Salamander Resort, Middleburg, Virginia - Sheila C. Johnson
Sheila Johnson is the founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels; a portfolio of unique, luxury boutique hotels and PGA Tour golf resorts. She began her hospitality journey in 2002 with the development of a luxury resort in Middleburg, VA; Salamander Resort & Spa, the company’s flagship hotel. A perfect place for a family vacation or a romantic escapade, the resort offers both indoor and outdoor pools, tennis courts, a complimentary putting green for aspiring golfers, a full equestrian center, and a secluded spa. Rooms starting at $735/night. The Salamander Hotel collection includes: the Henderson Beach Resort in Destin, FL, Hotel Bennett in Charleston, SC, and Half Moon in Montego Bay,
Hotel Manapany, St. Barts - Anne Jousse
The developer of B Signature Hotels & Resorts Anne Jousse founded Hotel Manapany to offer guests both privacy and immersion on the island of St. Barts, with unparalleled views of the sparkling Anse des Cayes. Located five minutes from the town of Gustavi, Jousse’s team designed the hotel in memory of the island’s wild and bohemian beauty, with 43 brightly decorated accommodations in seven different room categories—from thatch-roofed beachfront suites to sleek multiple-bedroom retreats on the steeply terraced hillside. Jousse owns several hotels in France, including the Bel Ami and Domaine de La Bretesche in the Loire-Atlantique region, bringing her knack for creating ecologically responsible hotels to the Caribbean. Using solar panels to provide a majority of the hotel’s power and with an effort to avoid any use of chemicals, Hotel Manapany is a model for hospitality innovation. Rooms starting at $675/night.
La Maison Michelle, St. James, Barbados - Michelle Jenkins
Situated on a hilltop with panoramic views of Barbados’ “Platinum Coast,” La Maison Michelle is the only Black American-owned private luxury resort in Barbados, co-owned by Michelle Jenkins (a lawyer by trade) and her husband, Guy Jenkins. The dual-level seven-suite villa includes 10,000 sq-feet of indoor/outdoor living space, making it the perfect destination for a romantic escape, work retreat, or friends getaway. Their “Welcome” Package offers en suite accommodations for up to 14 guests starting at $4,250/night.
Stonefield Villa Resort, St. Lucia - Anista Brown
Since Anista Brown was a child, her St. Lucian family had been working on the 26-acre cocoa plantation that has since turned into the beautiful Stonefield Villa Resort of St. Lucia. Originally owned by one of the largest colonial families in the 1700’s, the land was purchased by Brown and her husband in 1973. Still the sole owner today, Brown runs the day-to-day hotel operations, while her daughter, Cybelle, manages sales and marketing. With 17 open air private villas that each have a private pool, the resort offers both seclusion and access to all of St. Lucia’s natural attractions like the open volcano, botanical gardens, rainforest, and waterfalls. Rooms starting at $331/night.
The Retreat Costa Rica, Atenas, Costa Rica
Diana Stobo, award-winning author of Get Naked Fast, purchased The Retreat, a picturesque boutique hotel with jaw-dropping views in Costa Rica, on a whim. Just three months later, she began making a name for herself with the hotels’ open kitchen, authentic food, and warm staff. Located on 60 acres of rainforest, this 13-room wellness retreat overlooks the Pacific Ocean, offering guests a true escape from everyday life with amenities like the Vida Mia Spa. Rooms starting at $260/night.
Casa Palopo, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala - Claudia Bosch
In 2010, Guatemala native Claudia Bosch checked in to Casa Palopó as a guest—and checked out as the hotel’s new owner. Over the last decade, Bosch has turned the hotel into a luxury resort beloved by many, including the local community. Bosch also created the Palopo Activo program, in which 10 percent of guests’ nightly rate is given back to them in vouchers to shop locally. With just 12 rooms and a private three-bedroom villa, the hotel offers a boutique experience that pairs personalized attention with unique experiences inspired by the colors and culture of Guatemala. Enjoy your stay with a breathtaking view of the famous Lake Atitlan and its 10,000-ft volcanos Toliman, Atitlan, and San Pedro. Rates starting at $246/night.
The Mansion Bali, Ubud, Indonesia - Claudine Quynh
Claudine Quynh was drawn to the innate beauty of Bali in 2003 with a dream to create a resort that was more than a hotel—a place to display art and provide an immersion into Balinese traditions. Featured as the “Best Luxury Villa in Ubud” by Forbes in 2019, The Mansion Bali features lush landscaped gardens, Balinese lotus ponds, and local artwork in every corner. Dedicated to ecotourism, the hotel’s Organic Seedling Greenhouse constructed out of recycled plastic bottles grows Vietnamese aromatics herbs, Balinese spices, and organic vegetables. The property offers over 155 rooms, with categories ranging from Deluxe to Penthouse Suites, in a place where luxury, art, nature, and wellness meet true hospitality for its guests. Rooms starting at $135/night.
COMO Point Yamu, Phuket, Thailand - Christina Ong
You cannot discuss the incredible contributions of women in hospitality without acknowledging Christina Ong, founder of COMO Hotels Group. The COMO Hotels and Resorts portfolio consists of 14 hand-picked, individually curated properties, including the beautiful Point Yamu in Thailand which overlooks the Andaman Sea and the dramatic limestones of Phang Nga Bay. Interiors by Italian designer Paola Navone offer an expression of contemporary Thai luxury, alongside a COMO Shambhala wellness retreat and two world-class restaurants for Thai and Italian cuisine. Offering rooms, suites, and private villas, guests can slip out of day-to-day life and into a pampering world of private, oceanfront luxury. Rooms starting at $300/night.