Get our monthly news, updates and benefits.
Throughout her career with explora, Rosario Villagra has welcomed over 20,000 travelers to Patagonia and she is still fascinated by the work she does.
She goes around the dining room tables with a smile on her face, greeting the hotel’s guests and asking them how the food is and how their explorations went. She makes sure nothing is missing. And if she sees that explora Patagonia’s waiters are busy, she herself brings over more water, wine, or whatever a guest may need.
Rosario Villagra is the Guest Experience Manager at this hotel, a role that she defines as being a homemaker. “I take care of every detail here. Travelers come to me about the food, special diet needs, a requirement to change a bed, and so many other things. I am the one in charge of speaking with the head of each specific department and following up until the problem is fully taken care of.”
When Marcela Sigall, explora’s former manager, told Rosario they were looking for someone to replace her in Patagonia 18 years ago, she didn’t even know where Torres del Paine National Park was and had no experience in the hotel industry. She remembers going to the job interview with no hopes. “I have done things of all sorts, but I don’t know anything about the hotel industry. I have slept in a hotel and that is about all I know about hotels,” she told the manager at the time. “To my surprise, I thought he was going to say ‘Thanks for coming, we will call you back’, but instead he said ‘Perfect, that is exactly what we’re looking for’. I was shocked when he told me, ‘Look, this is not a hotel. We want this to be your home, where you welcome guests.’” Rosario took her chance and moved to explora Patagonia.
“I arrived on a sunny day, at sunset. I had never seen the sun look like that before. I fell in love with the place. If at that moment they had told me that I was going to live here for 18 years, I would have packed my things and left at once. But it has been 19 years and I am still thrilled, complaining about the cold, but still happy,” she says with a smile. “There is no doubt this is a magical place.”
“My strength and what I like most is to achieve things, especially with difficult customers; it’s a challenge to change the way they think. When I do it, it’s like saying mission accomplished! I feel most gratified when a guest leaves this place happy.
Our work team is another reason to stay; we are like a family. Many of us have been here for a long time. We are a committed and determined team and that’s something that keeps you going. And of course there is the landscape, which is also a great part of being here.”
“I think you have to put your heart into it. You have to like it. You cannot walk around here with a fake smile on your face, because travelers would notice. There is no way to pretend. I’m often asked how I manage to deal with so many people and the reason is because I love it.
Strangely enough I would say it is routine. The effort you have to put into this, trying to achieve perfection, even when often things just fall through along the way. It isn’t easy. It’s a very remote place and even finding people who want to come and work here is challenging. There are new hotels and new horizons as well. In the end you pull through, but the road gets harder every day. This could also be because of my age; difficulties only increase as you age.
“I don’t,” she laughs out loud. “The truth is I don’t plan ahead. When I did plan it was because my husband was a planner, but he died so unexpectedly that I stopped doing it. I have been at explora for a long time, so I don’t know what’s going to happen five years from now.
I am happy I ended up here. I believe in once-in-a-lifetime chances and you have to learn to taken them when they come. I think we shape our own future and I am happy that I decided to come here, despite all the reservations I had at first. I am deeply grateful to explora for giving me this opportunity and for being able to discover this corner of the world. Every time I look outside the window it’s like seeing this landscape for the first time.”