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Where to Go Next? Hotel La Perla in Italy

by Laura Itzkowitz



La Perla hotel showcases a flawless balance between cozy and contemporary in Italy's scenic Dolomites region.

It all started with a marathon. As president of the Maratona dles Dolomites, Michil Costa, who runs Hotel La Perla—founded by his parents Ernesto and Anni Costa in 1956 and a member of The Leading Hotels of the World—with his two brothers, always said that as soon as the marathon was successful economically, he wanted to do something to help less fortunate people. So when it took off in 2007, Costa and his wife traveled to India to meet Madame Jetsun Pena, sister of the Dalai Lama, and learn how they could help.

At first, he considered donating to a nonprofit, but was shocked to learn the percentage of money that organizations like Caritas and UNICEF raise goes toward administration. Beyond that, he believed these organizations aren’t transparent enough. “I analyzed the balance sheets, I asked them to send documentation, but I wasn’t convinced—and I’m still not,” Costa explains. “So I said, you know what, I’m going to make a foundation.”

In order to keep overhead low, the Costa Family Foundation only has one part-time employee. The rest are volunteers—employees of La Perla who lend a hand. In fact, hotel guests often don’t realize that the foundation’s office is tucked away in a staff-only part of the hotel. Down there, in a few rooms and corridors, are pictures and information about the foundation’s projects in India, Nepal, Afghanistan, Togo, Uganda and Ethiopia.

When choosing projects to support, it comes down to a cost-benefit analysis. “We always try to evaluate objectively the right relationship between cost and efficiency—because it’s not our money. It’s money from our guests,” Costa says, explaining that he and his team have to find delicate ways to educate guests and invite them to donate without it weighing on them during their vacation. They do this by hosting fundraisers with important chefs, marking up certain products, like massages or special items on the menu, and asking guests for something concrete, such as $150 to buy a goat for an Afghan woman during Christmastime. Fortunately, many guests become enthusiastic about the foundation, some donating tens of thousands of euros. So far, the foundation has raised over $1 million.

Costa emphasizes that the foundation focuses on small but impactful projects—building a university campus for displaced Tibetans in Bangalore, supporting a medical clinic fighting malaria in Togo, planting saffron fields run by women in Afghanistan, and a new project in Lviv, Ukraine.
“My goal is always to give more strength and support to women. I’m a feminist,” Costa proudly declares. “Women are the bedrock of every society. It’s not only a question of money, but also to give them a bit of hope with these projects.” lhw.com

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