MATÍAS DE CRISTÓBAL
Location: Atacama & Patagonia, Chile (coming soon in Iguazu)
In one line, what makes you a PUREist?
We use the same words (experience, culture, nature, intimacy, comfort), have the same ideals, live on the same frequency and speak the same ‘language’.
Tell us your story – how did you get where you are today?
I started my career working for a bank; then I went into consulting; then entertainment; then I opened a boutique shop in Buenos Aires and in Barcelona that sold fine South American native crafts, like ponchos, masks and textiles. Everything in my shops had a story – people would buy design-focussed products to use, but each thing would have a real story about where it came from. This was experiential shopping. One day, a lady (Ana Sainz de Vicuña – who would later become the owner of Awasi) came into the shop and said she was starting a boutique hotel in northern Chile and she loved the stories behind our products. So she invited me to visit the site for her hotel, and immediately I loved the project and completely identified with the vision that Ana had about selling ‘experiences’ and not just ‘room nights’.
So I ended up helping to create Awasi Atacama. Awasi is filled with people who have worked in other industries and for me this is important as they have fresh perspectives and ideas. The Awasi style is inspired by little things we learnt on travels – for example, I was in Africa on a safari with a group and I thought, true luxury would mean not sharing my free time with people that have very different interests. So we came up with the Awasi concept of private tours and giving each room a personal guide and 4WD. Now Awasi Atacama is seven years old; we opened Awasi Patagonia in October 2013, plan to open Awasi Iguazu this year and I am currently scouting out more locations for the fourth Awasi…
Can you share with us your single most life-enriching experience?
From a personal point of view, there’s nothing as enriching and transforming as having a kid. And for general life experience, it would be a trip I took to a small village called Londres in the Province of Catamarca in Northwest Argentina, where they have a strong culture of weaving. I met a lady who had started a cooperative for women who do hand-weaving. There is something amazing about meeting people who work with their hands, especially when you are coming from life in the city. This surprised me. And it surprised me that I was surprised! This lady taught me how important it is to give people experiences where they can be themselves, meet local people, go back to basics and see how you can do so much with so little. It was so different to the way I was used to travelling.
What does the term ‘experiential travel’ mean to you?
Experiential travel is the new type of luxury. It’s applying culture and nature with lodging, gastronomy and outings to provide the ultimate experience – this is the Awasi ethos.
Describe your ideal client: how do they approach travel?
Someone who has travelled a lot, is interested in nature and learning about new cultures. Our ideal client has an open mind, enjoys learning new things and having new experiences. In a certain way they should be like kids and be open to surprises. We are not the right hotel for people who want guaranteed high-speed internet – our ideal client wants to integrate themselves in the incredible environments of Atacama and Patagonia. Having said that, we like the challenge of surprising people who are hard to surprise…
What made you decide to join PURE Life Experiences and how has doing so benefitted your business?
We believe in the same things. For me, one of the best things about PURE is learning from other hotels, like, for example, lodges in Africa or Asia.
What role do you think PURE has to play in the high-end experiential travel industry?
Helping us to come together, learn from each other and improve as a total.
What other brands and companies in high-end experiential travel do you admire the most?
Singita, Londolozi and Aman.
If there were one thing you could change about the travel industry, what would it be?
I would make everyone go carbon neutral.
Finally, who is your experiential hero?
Thelonious Monk dancing! Or Bond, James Bond.
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