Travel Spotlight

Fogo Island Inn Founder Zita Cobb on Place, Community and Regenerative Tourism

​​Of course we know the Earth is round, but there are still a few places that feel as if you’re teetering right on the world’s edge. On an island, off another island, in Newfoundland, Canada—Fogo Island Inn is just that.

Fogo Island Inn is not only far-flung, but intimate as well. In its 29 guest rooms and suites, dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows provide a front row seat to both the most powerful ocean and some of the most rugged and wild geography on the planet. Founded by eighth generation islander Zita Cobb, the property has a steadfast commitment to preserving the unique local culture, forged out of the island’s seclusion. Growing up on the island, Zita was a direct witness to the impact of economic industrialization on the island’s fishermen (including her father). So, after decades of success in the corporate world, she returned home to create the Shorefast Foundation charity, which actually owns and runs Fogo Island Inn.

Zita shares her thoughts on how the symbiotic, circular relationship between inn and charity has become a vehicle for change. Plus, discover her favorite spots on the island, the initiatives she’s proudest of and what she hopes travelers take away from a stay. You may just want to plan your next trip to the Inn “far away from far away.”


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What is your favorite spot on Fogo Island?

My favorite place on the island is where Fogo Island Inn stands, the Back Western shore. Four hundred and twenty million years of history are etched into the very rocks Fogo Island Inn sits on. The Inn is positioned to face into the Labrador Current and greet the vastness of the North Atlantic. (And then inside the hotel itself, my favorite place is the library, which specializes in the many ways of knowing Newfoundland and in particular the North East Coast where Fogo Island is located.)

Can you explain the relationship between the Shorefast Foundation and the Fogo Island Inn and why it’s successful?

Shorefast is a registered charity of Canada, and its mandate is the wellbeing of Fogo Island. In collaboration with the community, Shorefast conceived and created Fogo Island Inn. The inn’s success directly translates into a meaningful impact in the local community through Shorefast’s charitable programs and projects. This symbiotic relationship is what sets Fogo Island Inn apart. It's not just a luxury inn. It's a vehicle for economic development on Fogo Island…ultimately, we want our work to be a contagious example that can help create economic prosperity in local communities.

What are some of your favorite ways the Fogo Island Inn and Shorefast Foundation give back to the surrounding community?

Shorefast’s initiatives range from Fogo Island Arts, an internationally renowned artist-in-residence program, to environmental programs such as a start-up seaweed project. The goal of these initiatives is to empower the community economically and culturally. Many Fogo Islanders who had left seeking opportunities elsewhere have returned to the island, drawn by new employment opportunities, and the championing of our local culture...Entrepreneurs are establishing ventures that complement the traditional industries of fishing and craftsmanship.

Can you explain the idea behind Fogo Island Arts and its purpose today?

Founded in 2008, Fogo Island Arts was created with the conviction that art and artists have the capacity to help us see the world differently…The artist-in-residence program was one of Shorefast’s founding initiatives and was established before the inn opened its doors. Over the last 15 years, Fogo Island Arts has grown into a full program of exhibitions, public programs and publications that aim to bridge connections between local and global communities.

What has creating the Fogo Island Inn taught you about the relationship between community and hospitality?

That true hospitality extends far beyond accommodations and amenities. It's about honoring local culture, weaving it into the fabric of the guest experience and ensuring the host community is the beneficiary of the visitor economy it creates. A great inn should be a mirror for the community it serves and operate in ways that facilitate learning between guests and hosts.

Is there a specific achievement you’re most proud of?

I’m always proudest of the latest initiative we’re working on because, to me, that signals growth, adaptation and perseverance. Ultimately, the biggest achievement lies in contributing to this island and the community.

Have you met or come across other people in the hospitality space doing ambitious, disruptive or multi-faceted projects that have sparked your interest?

I feel hopeful when I see individuals and organizations whose business model puts people and places first. These tend to be locally owned, independent properties. Without naming specific properties, I would invite conscious travelers to look more deeply into ‘where the money goes’ when making their travel decisions.

What does “place” mean in today’s fast-paced, digital world and why is it important?

In this increasingly digital life we lead, “place” is about our embodied relationship with the world and our sense of belonging. Place anchors us amidst the chaos, reminding us of our roots, our pillars, our values and the physical spaces we share with other humans. When we engage with a place, embracing its art, community and nature, we not only enrich our own lives but also contribute to the preservation of that place. What could be more rewarding?

Place is an antidote to this era of disconnection and social isolation.”

Zita Cobb, Fogo Island Inn Founder

What is your hope people take away from a stay at Fogo Island Inn?

I hope that when guests return to their homes, they carry with them not just memories of a beautiful stay, but a deeper understanding of the importance of place and the richness of a place’s communities. I hope guests leave with a newfound appreciation for the importance of preserving the unique essence of their own places, wherever they may be.

For more on Fogo Island Inn and Zita’s thoughts on the implications of AI on travel, check out our Passport to Everywhere episode with Zita Cobb.

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