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1 on 1 with Gregory Franc, General Manager of andBeyond Vira Vira:

by Lucas Raven

1) What inspires you about Chile?

Its nature and diversity of landscapes. Every region offers something unique to discover, and one can truly disconnect from the outside world and connect with nature in beautiful wild territories. It is such a vast country that invites you to travel and get to know its people and culture along the way, some of the most amazing people I have met in my life to be honest.

There is so much to learn outside of the main cities, and I think that most travelers will tell you the same after visiting the country.

2) Why join team andBeyond?

From the moment I got to know andBeyond and the values of the company, I was totally impressed by the way it manages to care about the land and the wildlife, but also of the people who work within the company. Every lodge of the company has the same family spirit, where you always feel welcome and at home.

There is a great opportunity to develop as a person and understand why what we are doing is so important if we want to make the world a better place. There is an important sense of dedication with a purpose, the same purpose that motivates you to create magical moments for your own guests every day. It’s about learning to be better, and sharing it with passion to others.

3) What makes andBeyond Vira Vira special?

Apart from being nestled within a unique and peaceful location and amazing region, I would say without a doubt the warmth and friendliness of its staff.

We have built a very solid and efficient permanent team throughout the years, a team of dedicated people who understand the values of the company, and are eager to develop themselves to be better every day, always enjoying what they are doing.

In addition, we have a terrific guiding team who knows the region so well, that they will make sure every guest can experience something that will not only fit their expectations but surprise them in the best way possible.

4) Where did you begin your hospitality journey?

Twenty years ago, in Switzerland to be precise, where I graduated from the Hotel School of Lausanne, before moving to New York City to the Plaza Hotel (the old Plaza before it closed for renovation), my first hospitality experience.

I would say those years in NYC were probably the richest and most valuable years in my career, as they definitely gave me the right tools to further grow within the hospitality business. Since then and for the last 14 years, I had the opportunity to travel and work in different countries, especially in South America, such as Ecuador and now Chile, where I have lived for the last 6 years.

5) If andBeyond Vira Vira was a storybook, what kind of story would it be telling?

It would tell the story of a how a small dream from the original Swiss owners, which started many years ago, slowly flourished to become not only a unique and internationally recognized destination in Chile, but also an example of how hospitality can positively make a difference in the world.

It would be about passion, care, respect and integration of local culture, sustainability, and dedication.

6) What’s your favorite part of the property?

Our organic garden. There is no better feeling than walking to the main area, passing by the garden and seeing it slowly growing, until finally reaching the month of December and being able to witness an explosion of colors and greens everywhere. For any vegetable lovers like me, it is a true delight for the eyes.

7) What initiatives have been applied to inspire sustainability in the property and the community?

Since andBeyond took over, we have been actively looking at how we could help and have a positive impact on the surrounding communities and land, but also how we could push our operations to become more sustainably efficient. Over the last year, we were able to completely remove plastic from our rooms, we have built a water bottling plant on-site so we only use glass-bottled water from our property.

Most recently, we have completely redone our waste water installation system, now counting with a new treatment plant, which allows us to process the waste water so it can be reused to irrigate some areas of the property. We have put in place a reforestation program that directly involves our guests so they can plant their own tree on property.

We have also been actively involved with local communities as well, and we are now in the process of implementing a water recollection system in one of the local town to help families deal with droughts during the summer months. Education has also been an important part of our conservation projects, and we have invited on several occasions schools from the area to visit our property and learn about our sustainable practices and conservation projects.

We are planning on inviting students on excursions with our guides so they can understand today’s environmental challenges and the importance of protecting our wildlife and nature.

 

8) Describe andBeyond Vira Vira’s food and beverage in 3 words:

Organic, Colorful, Delicate

9) Describe your most memorable moment at the property:

I will never forget the day we prepared a special surprise for two of our guests. We left very early in the morning with the helicopter to go setup a breakfast table in the mountain on the side of the Villarrica volcano. The view and day were just spectacular.

We told our guests we had a special breakfast organized for them when they arrived at the restaurant. We took them to the helicopter and flew them up to the mountain. Imagine their reaction when they saw a full breakfast setup in the middle of nowhere. We even cooked pancakes on site (not an easy task at that altitude). There were tears of joy from everyone. It was just magical and it will be remembered as one of those special moments that will stay in our guests’ mind forever.

10) Your advise to the aspiring hospitality leaders out there:

It is not an easy question as every leader will have lots to say. On a personal note, I would say: travel and learn from all different cultures. You can only grow in hospitality when you understand the world and its variety of cultures and tastes.

Set goals for your life and be patient. There is no shame in dreaming, and there is definitely pride in achieving the most difficult tasks. Only experience can lead you to be a good leader. Always stay humble, respectful, and learn from others.

Most importantly, find the right people to surround and support you. A ship can only navigate and reach its destination with the right skilled people that share the same vision as yours.

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