By Alice Tegg, Editorial and Marketing Assistant

Despite making up the majority of the hospitality workforce, women are still under-represented at the top of the ladder. Whether it’s liaising with male tradesmen or overcoming outdated chauvinism, entering the hotelier scene can feel like one big Boys’ Club. Having the confidence to step into that world is the first challenge. But that’s exactly what these inspiring women have done, and with huge success, paving out a more female future that others can aspire to.

As a company largely founded and run by women, we’re keener than ever to sing the achievements of ladies making waves in the industry. So, to mark International Women’s Day, we’re shining a light on 5 of our favourite female-led hotels, and the powerhouse women who are at the helm.

1 Meryanne Loum-Martin, Jnane Tamsna

i-escape blog / Inspiring women: 5 trailblazing female hoteliers / Jnane Tamsna
Left: the Blue Room; Right: Meryanne Loum-Martin

Once a successful lawyer in Paris, Meryanne traded in her fast-paced profession for a path that her heart was far more invested in: a design dream bringing buzz to an (at the time) untapped treasure trove in Marrakech. When she discovered the Palmeraie district it was barely more than rows upon rows of palm trees. But she envisioned a luxurious oasis, a cocoon of peace in a frenetic city, that felt intuitively international while integrating the local culture. And that is what she achieved with Jnane Tamsna, a boutique hotel that is lauded across the world for style, service and innovation.

i-escape blog / Inspiring women: 5 trailblazing female hoteliers / Jnane Tamsna
The library at Jnane Tamsna

As the first boutique hotelier in Morocco, Meryanne broke boundaries when she embarked on this passion project. Her cross-continental background, from Senegalese and West Indian parents to a childhood spent in cities across Europe, has heavily influenced her taste for interiors. Every room incorporates far-flung handcrafted pieces from Africa to Asia, resulting in a unique and ever-changing story throughout. It feels regal, elegant but refreshingly relaxed. The paradisaical atmosphere continues outside; the 24-suite hotel is set in 9 acres of luscious gardens, expertly cultivated by Meryanne’s botanist husband, Gary. You can feel the love in every inch of Jnane Tamsna, and this place is epitomised by warmth; from the rich colours found in the textiles and on the walls, to the hospitality of the team and the personal touches, like garden tours and restaurant recommendations, from the owners themselves.


2 Helen Howat, Salut Maroc

i-escape blog / Inspiring women: 5 trailblazing female hoteliers / Salut Maroc
Left: Maghreb Suite; Right: Safi Suite

Bold and unashamed – that is the overarching spirit of Salut Maroc, and of owner Helen Howat. Coming across a ruined Jewish merchant house in Essaouira, in the heart of the UNESCO-listed Medina, the British-born designer fell instantly in love. Going it alone and spearheading the entire operation, it took 5 long years for Helen to get it from rags to riches, a process involving tediously slow paperwork and teaching tradesmen new techniques learned from her design and merchandise business in Dubai.

i-escape blog / Inspiring women: 5 trailblazing female hoteliers / Salut Maroc
The rooftop restaurant at Salut Maroc

When you see the finished result, there’s no mistaking where the time and energy was spent when transforming the old riad. An explosion of colour and pattern, in combinations that only a true artist like Helen could cohesively put together, that celebrates traditional Islamic design and Morocco’s vibrant character. Each of the 11 rooms is inspired by a different Moroccan city, the tiling and artwork paying careful homage to key traits and local tales. If you can drag yourself away from your masterpiece suite to head upstairs you’ll find a rooftop restaurant with intricate mosaic flooring, designed to pair beautifully with a breathtaking view of the Atlantic ocean and historic ramparts. Ever since its opening in 2017, Salut Maroc has held the crown for coolest hotel in ancient Essaouira, and we don’t see that being challenged any time soon.


3 Freyja Ducker, The Sandy Duck

i-escape blog / Inspiring women: 5 trailblazing female hoteliers / The Sandy Duck
Left: Freyja Ducker; Right: the guest lounge

Following a career of sailing the world as a stewardess on superyachts, Freyja decided to apply her passion for tourism and skills in hospitality to a little townhouse in Falmouth that was in desperate need of some TLC. Her keen eye for design, alongside the artistic talents of her mother and sister, helped it flourish into a charming guesthouse that feels like a true home-from-home. Her invaluable understanding of what it takes to succeed in hospitality has kept guests returning for more, and cemented The Sandy Duck as one of Cornwall’s most beloved B&Bs.

i-escape blog / Inspiring women: 5 trailblazing female hoteliers / The Sandy Duck
Room 8 at The Sandy Duck

Stepping through the hot pink double doors and being greeted by the four-legged lady of the house, Rhubarb, you feel the feminine energy all around you. Soothing Scandi-style puts you at immediate ease; a calming atmosphere carefully and intentionally created by Freyja, who wants her guests to kick their shoes off, don their slippers and relax in uninterrupted comfort. The 8 gorgeous rooms have pillowy beds to fall into, to guarantee a restful night’s sleep. Choose one that has the sublime sea views, looking out to nearby Gyllyngvase Beach, or one with a freestanding tub for the ultimate well-being experience. The Sandy Duck is perfectly located for exploring the creative town of Falmouth, a lively hub for arts and music in Cornwall, with its beaches and burgeoning food scene within easy reach.


4 Oana Aristide, Hotel Aristide

i-escape blog / Inspiring women: 5 trailblazing female hoteliers / Hotel Aristide
Left: Oana Aristide; Right: Levadia Suite

It seems unlikely that someone who began her working life as a macroeconomist in London, before moving on to be an advisor to the Romanian Prime Minister, would eventually run her own boutique hotel on a Greek island. But, no stranger to breaking the mould in male-dominated industries, that is precisely what Oana Aristide did. Her successful and diverse career has taken her all over Europe, most recently to Syros, where she opened Hotel Aristide with her sister and mother. Oh, and did I mention she’s also the published author of numerous articles and a Times ‘Book of the Year’ novel?

i-escape blog / Inspiring women: 5 trailblazing female hoteliers / Hotel Aristide
The first-floor mezzanine at Hotel Aristide

When the trio found the Neoclassical mansion for sale in the capital of the Cyclades, Ermoupolis, the decision to become hoteliers seemed to be written in the stars. Not one to do a job half-heartedly, Oana has restored it to its former glory; a grand marble staircase, original columns and ornate ceilings keep the heritage alive, while suave styling and 21st-Century mod-cons make it a haven for a sophisticated urban break. The suites are spacious and seductive; the rooftop terrace is drenched in sun and effortlessly romantic; flourishes of jewel-toned velvet and bright pops of gold bring old-time glamour to the forefront. Syros itself is still flying relatively under-the-radar to the rest of the world, though popular with Greeks, which gives it an untouched charm that we are all about.


5 Terezdina Rigouzzo, Pino di Loto

i-escape blog / Inspiring women: 5 trailblazing female hoteliers / Pino di Loto
Left: the pool and terrace; Right: Terezdina Rigouzzo

There must be something in the water on Syros, because it is home to another female hotelier taking the industry by storm. A sweet B&B that was set up by her parents, where she took her first steps, and where she cut her teeth in hospitality, Terezdina Rigouzzo is now heading up the family business and winning the hearts of all who stay at Pino di Loto. Her warmth is so keenly felt and her energy so infectious that people return just for her; the stunning hilltop hideaway she runs is merely an added bonus.

i-escape blog / Inspiring women: 5 trailblazing female hoteliers / Pino di Loto
Pino di Loto from above

The 6 suites are traditional Cycladic square houses built into the hillside, simply decorated with woven cushions, rugs and blankets, and white-washed tables and chairs. There are also a few family antiques thoughtfully dotted around by Mama Mary. The star of the show is the panoramic view of the smooth Aegean sea, glistening in the Greek sunshine, best seen while eating breakfast by the pool. What a way to start the day. But none of this would guarantee the rave reviews it receives without the quality of care from Terezdina and her team. The intimate setting and personal, family feel she has crafted leaves her guests with a distinct feeling: staying here is like staying with friends, so no wonder people are queuing to come back.

Have we overlooked any amazing female hoteliers that you think should be included? Let us know!