A day with Julie Smith

Sales and Marketing at Santiago de Alfama in Lisbon.

How does a normal day at Santiago de Alfama look like for you?

Days can be varied when working in hospitality, especially in a very small boutique hotel where one does three or four roles together that can often be split in to separate posts in larger hotels. This can take a bit of multi tasking but can also result to a more personalized service.

I usually start my day with a run though the arrivals list doing the last double check to ensure that all is order for the guests who are joining us that day. I then do the check on all the new reservations that we received over night, making sure all special requests are in hand.

The rest of my day is then open to respond to new incoming requests and sales orientated opportunities. I always look for new leads, which can vary between, corporate events, weddings, small group reservations, new booking channels – online travel agents, to personal meetings with smaller agents working in the luxury market. Recently I have been spending much of my time linking our Property Management System with a new Channel Manager to ensure we can add on many more OTA´s in the future and hopefully widen our market.

Can you share a especially memorable experience?

I have been very fortunate that I joined Santiago de Alfama as employee number one, so for me the whole project will always be extremely memorable. Being responsible for the sales at Santiago is a breeze when I feel I know the product from building site to Boutique Hotel.

I also had a personal hand in choosing the wall papers and sourcing the Claus Porto amenities in the room, so I feel quite intwined with Heleen´s concept for this hotel. I get a genuine smile when I read the reviews or hear a guest compliment the Front Desk on enjoyable stay.

I understand you are not from Portugal, how did you end up in Lisbon?

I have travelled all my life, which began with my first plane ride. At just over a year old, my family left Yorkshire to live and work in Zambia. Which led to my primary home being outside of the UK for my formative years. When I was 16 my parents moved back to live in England on a permanent basis, but the seed had already been sown and I was hungry for more adventures.

In the past 20 years I have lived and worked in many different places, I did my university internship is Cyprus, once complete I took my first role as receptionist in a prestigious London Hotel, After two years I moved to Zambia to take on a challenging role in reservations and marketing for an exclusive safari lodge that owned five bush camps throughout Zambia but mostly situated in Livingstone with one of the islands used for `Hemingway style´ picnics on the lip of Victoria falls. I later moved to South Africa, and thereafter to York, and Cornwall.

During the 10 years I lived Cornwall I took a month every year to explore a new place, which took me to India, Indonesia, Morocco, Australia and Cambodia, but this eventually extended to year long sabbatical where I decided to travel the world (which I did) and my journey ended in Portugal. I don´t think I realized that I was looking for a new home at the time but by ending my journey in Portugal it became very clear to me that I had found what I was looking for.

Portugal is a small country with a low population of roughly 12 million and with a rich and diverse landscape, and so much outstanding natural beauty, with a climate that reminds me more my childhood. So the move here although daunting felt like the most natural next step for me. Having now lived in Lisbon for a little over two and half years I have absolutely no regrets!

Keep investing in customer service, because this is what will be rememberedJulie Smith

What is your favorite hotel in the world and why?

Anywhere that blends quality and luxury so well in to its natural environment without being stuffy is the place for me! I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to be a part of two of those special places Tongabezi, Livingstone and Santiago de Alfama, Lisbon.

What’s the next big thing in hospitality according to you?

I´m a little old school and I think the more we move forward the more we look back. Which is why the trend for Boutique Hotels exist, we long for personalized experiences that take us to the very heart of the culture delivered with enthusiasm and passion. The next big thing for me is more of the same keep it small, keep it local, but keep it well organized to flow with an authentically confident delivery.

Keep investing in customer service, because this is what will be remembered for far longer than the expensive coffee pods in the rooms or the interactive app that assists you with a speedier check in.

Where will you be on your next day off?

Camping up the coast and trying to stand on my new board if conditions are good for an enthusiastic beginner like me.

What is your favorite place to relax and breathe in Lisbon?

I am lucky to live near three beautiful gardens, Jardim de Estrella, Jardim Principe Real and a Botanical Garden (which is probably my favourite, on a hot noisy Saturday, I can walk into the garden and forget i live in a city!)

Finally, Beirão or Port wine?

Any vintage red Port wine – for me!

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