Nestled among the thick forest in Brazil’s Iguassu National Park, across from the breathtaking nearly two-mile-long, horseshoe-shaped Iguassu Falls, you’ll find a blush-pink hotel that’s setting the standard for luxury travel in region.
Belmond Hotel das Cataratas is the first property in South America to win the coveted Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star award.
A lush UNESCO World Heritage Site park filled with rare and endangered species of flora and fauna seems like an unlikely location for a luxury leader. But Belmond Hotel das Cataratas (cataratas means “waterfalls”) shows that superior, gracious and thoughtful service can thrive anywhere.
Brazil, in particular, is undergoing a luxury hotel resurgence that started with properties popping up for the 2016 Olympics. Traditional family-owned hotels dominate the country, but more global luxury brands are moving in. Palácio Tangará, Oetker Collection’s first South American hotel, opened in May 2017, also in an unexpected destination: amid the rainforest in Sao Paulo’s Burle Marx Park. Four Seasons Hotel São Paulo at Nações Unidas will be unveiled in late 2018. Rosewood will debut its first property on the continent in 2019 in the multi-use Cidade Matarazzo complex.
In Rio, the 2016 opening of Grand Hyatt Rio de Janeiro marked the brand’s second outpost in the country. There’s also a brand-new beachfront Emiliano (a sister hotel to Four-Star Emiliano in Sao Paulo) in Copacabana, and the impending opening of Fairmont’s inaugural hotel in South America.
But Belmond Hotel das Cataratas has paved the way for these new additions and is the example they all should follow. We talked to hotel general manager Eduardo Bressane to learn more about this Five-Star winner.
How does it feel to be the first hotel in South America to earn a Five-Star award?
It is very gratifying to receive this award from such a respected guide within the world of luxury travel. Belmond Hotel das Cataratas’ team works to offer the best experience possible for our guests, who when visiting us, have the privilege of staying inside a destination that is a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site and one of the Seven New Wonders of Nature.
We know Forbes Travel Guide’s inspectors evaluate the properties based on 900 requirements and only the best ones are included in the guide — which makes us have even more respect for the amazing guide. Brazil now proudly joins its Belmond family members Belmond El Encanto in Santa Barbara, Belmond Hotel Cipriani in Venice and Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa in Riviera Maya, who have retained their Five Stars in 2018.
What was your journey to earning a Five-Star rating like?
Being a Five-Star hotel by Forbes Travel Guide requires a lot of effort and team work. Part of Belmond group since 2007, Hotel das Cataratas has been thoroughly refurbished. Its facilities have been upgraded to new quality standards, modernizing the elegant Portuguese-colonial-style building.
The hotel [celebrates] 60 years in 2018, and this recognition couldn’t be a better anniversary present. It is definitely a signal that we are doing a great job keeping a high level of hospitality combined with the tradition of a colonial hotel.
Another important point to highlight from this journey is our employees. To get where we are, very tough employee training is needed. I’m very proud of the team we created here. We have some of the most qualified people, with the ability to speak lots of languages, be creative in solutions to guests’ problems and also provide the best stay possible to our guests.
I believe Belmond Hotel das Cataratas has been helping Foz do Iguassu to be on the national and international tourist map. The hotel has established itself as the ultimate home for those wishing to discover this stunning area of natural beauty in Brazil.
What distinguishes Brazilian hospitality from that of other countries?
Brazilians are well-known for being warm, kind and friendly. We are deeply passionate about what we do and try to show our culture to the guests through gastronomy and client interactions.
When staying at Belmond Hotel das Cataratas, guests can see the Brazilian hospitality from the moment they step in the hotel. From the amenities in the rooms to the details in the restaurants, everything is made to make our visitors feel home and comfortable in a unique Brazilian way.
What is your favorite part of the hotel?
The fact that the falls are at our disposal 24 hours a day, before the park opens at 9 a.m. and after closing at 5 p.m. Walking next to the falls basically by yourself — because the park is closed for the tourists — is indescribable. Another breathtaking experience is the lunar rainbow that happens on full moon nights, when the moon reflects on the falls and creates a rare phenomenon.
There is a lot to see at the destination. My personal recommendation is minimum of three nights at the hotel. I am looking forward to seeing Forbes readers around here to enjoy the most stunning sunset over the falls.
What are some challenges of having a hotel in the midst of a jungle?
Being inside of a national park is definitely a big challenge and responsibility, always respecting the park logistics. We need to respect many strict federal rules in order to be in this location. The hotel always tries to help the environment as much as we can. For example, trash is collected selectively for recycling, there are electrical energy controls and an effluent treatment station. Staff is continuously and specifically trained to take the best care of their surroundings.
The hotel has other initiatives, and through the team training program it is constantly striving to reduce the environmental impact on this beautiful natural landscape. The idea is not to limit this knowledge to our staff, but also transmit it to the visitors.
How will you celebrate your distinction?
We are already celebrating. The whole staff is thrilled, and it makes our responsibility to the guests even bigger, now that we are a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel. And by the way, we love celebrating around here.
What’s next for the hotel?
Belmond Hotel das Cataratas is always forward-thinking in our approach to travel, setting the standard for service and hospitality along the way.
You can expect from us memorable events and extraordinary music and gastronomy at the most extraordinary locations.
The hotel is about to start a new and unforgettable experience: the First Light Experience. We’re thrilled to have partnered with Leica Sport Optics to create beautiful dawn walks for the guests. At Belmond Hotel das Cataratas, Leica binoculars will be available at the concierge desk, ready for people to join an expert guide to enjoy nature’s energy up close.
Another important thing to mention is our improvement on gastronomy. We recently hired a Peruvian chef who elevated our restaurants to another level. Monthly we are inviting important chefs from Brazil and abroad to make Master Series dinners. Those events are a total success here!