Tomas Sahli of The Singular Hotels: The Future Of Travel In The Post COVID World

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

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In the world over the last few years, we have been looking at what kind of society we want to build. We believe that we always have to start by looking at what we were, what we are now and how we want to be in the future. A historical look always helps to put into perspective the dreams we have ahead of us.

As part of my series about “developments in the travel industry over the next five years”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tomas Sahli.

Growing up in Chile, Tomas Sahli moved to the US to get his master’s degree at UCLA Anderson and lived in NY and LA. While there, he realized that Chile had many of the characteristics that travelers were looking for when they travel: remoteness, pristine nature and special interest. This confirmed his passion to position the country as a travel destination, which made him join and lead the project his father had started years before: The Singular Hotels.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Hotel management is something we carry in our blood. My father Felipe Sahli studied in Lausanne. His parents were Swiss and when they arrived in Chile, they opened the iconic Crillon Hotel and the cafeteria La Novia. For my father, details were always a priority. He would go into a hotel and take care of straightening the frames, he would see if there was dust, he himself would carry suitcases of the guests, he would study the bricks, the people, etc. He knew that beyond having spectacular facilities, what had to be built was a home for the guests. From seeing my father at work, I knew that this industry was what I was also most passionate about.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Once, while traveling in Patagonia with my siblings, we passed by the Frigorifico Bories cold storage plant, which is now The Singular Patagonia. Walking among those corridors, I knew that it had been a significant space, not only in the history of the community of Puerto Natales but also for the affection with which my parents looked at it with. The Frigorifico Bories is a milestone in the history of Chile and our family, because Puerto Natales was the place where my mother’s family took root. Now, we have a magnificent five-star hotel in the very same building, which has been declared a National Heritage and serves as a museum.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

At the beginning of March 2020, we were told by a member of the commercial area of our hotels, with a tone of concern, that one of the groups we had confirmed for the next season of The Singular Patagonia was in danger as there were rumors of an apparently viral, contagious disease that was spreading very fast. I believed that these were unfounded rumors and that there was nothing to worry about. Fifteen days later, practically everyone was locked in their homes, living out the pandemic caused by COVID.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? Can you share a story about that?

For us, interiors and facilities have always been very important, but really what sets us apart are the people. I believe that you have to invest every day in building the best team, and with that the results come on their own. When you work with the best people and those people love the work they do, you see the results.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My father taught me the love for this industry and for this business. Even though it has been difficult, the people who are here, we are here because we have a passion for this industry.

Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?

A theme that matters to us is caring for the world and how we relate to the community. For The Singular Hotels, this relationship has always been about showing the value of the places we are in. We are committed to reflecting the identity, the heritage, the social and cultural soul of where our hotels are located. We believe that this is what distinguishes a place and is the wealth that Chile has. We want to show the soul of Chile through its gastronomy, its people, its pioneers. This is a country that has a lot of wealth, and we believe that our properties are reflections of that soul.

Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation?

In the world over the last few years, we have been looking at what kind of society we want to build. We believe that we always have to start by looking at what we were, what we are now and how we want to be in the future. A historical look always helps to put into perspective the dreams we have ahead of us.

How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?

These last two years, we have seen that the solutions to problems are far more complex than just addressing material needs. The pandemic not only brought a big impact in showing the medical challenges that were in the world, but also how important it is to be connected to the community and the societies that we build. Something that has been lost a little bit these days, even though we are all very connected by technology, is the closeness, that community spirit. We try to make our locations reflect that.

As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share 5 examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?

  • The magnitude of the crisis, while great, demonstrated the resilience and passion that characterizes this industry.
  • The importance of diversifying, e.g., we created a food delivery brand during the pandemic when the hotel was closed; we were able to open and close quickly and roll with everyday changes.
  • Having agile structures that allow you to react quickly to abrupt changes.
  • New technologies. What characterizes our hotels is service, but that service is even better when it is supported by new technological tools.
  • The importance of creating experiences.

You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

I think the best travel destinations are off-the-beaten-path, far-flung destinations.

Travel is not always about escaping, but about connecting. Have you made efforts to cultivate a more wellness driven experience? We’d love to hear about it.

Yes, of course. For us that’s paramount, we’ve always been doing it. Our hotels are focused on wellness in every sense — if you want to have a spectacular spa, if you want to reconnect with your surroundings on an excursion in the middle of the glaciers, if you want to have an amazing meal, etc.

Can you share with our readers how you have used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I participate in various trade associations and am on the board of directors of a number of companies in order to contribute to my country.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I would initiate a movement to safeguard the cultural heritage present in our industry.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

We can be found on IG: @thesingularhotels / Facebook: The Singular Hotels / LinkedIn: The Singular Hotels and www.thesingular.com

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor