Meet the Business: The Lost and Found Hostel

We caught up with Ayla and the team from the Lost and Found Hostel in Panama to learn more about their business!
When did you open The Lost and Found Hostel and what inspired you to do so?

We opened in 2008. My business partner and I wanted to turn our passions and interests (nature, travel, health and outdoor adventures) into something that we can share with travelers.

What do you love most about The Lost and Found Hostel?

It’s located in a cloudforest national park, with amazing views and immediate access to a variety of trails. The hostel shares a living space in the nature with wildlife, which gives animal-lovers great opportunities to spot and interact with them.

Due to its extreme isolation, it has a natural capability of creating a special social atmosphere and bringing travelers together.

A yellow building is nestled among some trees in the cloudforests of Panama, the sun is shining on the building
The Lost and Found Hostel in the cloudforest of Panama
What has been the most rewarding part of opening The Lost and Found Hostel?

The L&F Hostel is the most unique hostel in Panama, being the oldest and the only one situated in a national park. It has been extreme rewarding watching people coming from all over the world to this place that we created, forming meaningful relationships with each other and mother nature.

What has been your biggest challenge and how have you overcome this?

Building strategic relationships with the local communities has been challenging. Since my business partner and I are both from Canada, we’ve encountered a lot of cultural differences with the local communities, some are interesting, but some can be a bit frustrating. With time, patience and open-mindedness, we’ve managed to maintain a sustainable balance with the local communities, where we provide job opportunities for them and in return, they provide support for us when we are in need.

Over the roof of the hostel, the sun is low on the horizon, looking out across a valley in Panama - you can see green mountains and blue peaks in the distance
The view from The L&F Hostel
Tell us about your team (how you built the team/what you love most).

My business partner and I each bring different skill-sets to creating this hostel. To put it in one sentence, he comes up with fantastic ideas and I turn them into reality. We’ve always been hiring people who are in tune with the latest trends and can bring fresh ideas and positive energy to this place. The majority of our staff team are hired locally, and are complimented by volunteers from all over the world.

What I love most about our team is its diversity. We have lots of local staff who not only benefit financially from their jobs, but also have the opportunities to develop skills for the tourism industry. We also have volunteers from different countries to bridge the gap between travelers and the local culture. We all work side by side as a big family and create a unique atmosphere for the guests.

How has Tab helped The Lost and Found Hostel?

Tab makes bookings and payments for our business much easier. Due to our remote location, we are able to collect advance payments and decrease no-shows.

What is your favourite feature that Tab offers? Why?

The ease of payment for our guests and simple process for us.

The open balcony of the Lost and Found Hostel, looking out onto a green valley, the sun is setting
The view from the balcony at The L&F Hostel
Why is Panama a great place to visit?

It’s a small country, yet very geographically diversified. In one day, you can get from the Pacific to the Caribbean, with modern cities, cloud forests, volcanos and various attractions in between.

What would your advice be for anyone thinking about starting their own tourism business?
  • Choose the right location
  • Live in the country first
  • Learn about the country’s labor laws
  • Have a higher budget than you planned
  • Perseverance is the key

You can find out more about The Lost and Found Hostel on their website at www.thelostandfoundhostel.com, or on Instagram at @lostandfoundhostel.

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