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An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

Thanks to the rising popularity of smart working, travellers are looking for greater flexibility in their villa bookings and with cancellation policies. With flexible work becoming the new norm for so many, people are now turning an airport lounge or villa dining room into their office. We anticipate the rise of “workcations” will likely lead to increased off-season travel, as clients seek to avoid crowds of tourists.

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

Roberto Sortino, Managing Director & Founder of Villatravellers, founded the Sicilian villa company over 15 years ago. Villatravellers provides exclusive, personalised holidays all across Sicily and includes over 70 meticulously selected properties that span every part of the island. At the start of this year, and during the height of Covid-19, Sortino led a company rebrand to reflect the brand’s optimistic view on tourism on the island.

Sortino was brought up during the digital age, which led him to pursue a degree in computer science and languages and he studied at home in Sicily throughout university. This was when the idea behind soloSicily (now Villatravellers) was born — Roberto was looking to bring together his love of Sicily with his passion for the internet, giving life to one of the top villa rental companies.

Villatravellers offers a high-end concierge service and offers unique experiences for every area that showcase the island’s culture, natural beauty, and gourmet scene. Guests can enjoy sandy beaches along the south coast, rocky shores on the east, immerse themselves in the Arab-Norman culture of the north region or explore the Baroque towns of the south.

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

From an early age my father shared his passion for computers with me, in turn growing my own. So when it came time to pick a degree at university I naturally chose computer science. After graduation many of my friends were keen to move away from Sicily, but not me. I loved the area, and wanted to live and work in it. Though online travel companies were rare at the time, I saw an opportunity to combine my love for technology with my love for Sicily to create soloSicily. Since then my business has evolved and become Villatravellers, with a mission to share Sicily’s beauty and culture with the modern world.

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

At the start of my career, when I didn’t have much money or resources, I had to use my parents’ house as an office. When clients would used to have meetings with me, I’d have to run around, turning the house upside down until it looked like an office. My mother wasn’t pleased about it at the time, but we laugh about it now!

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?

When I started out, I was responsible for most aspects of the business, including setting up the website. As is often the case with new projects, I began by taking inspiration from other websites. With so much on my plate, I was a little overworked. One time, when looking at another company’s website I mistakenly copied their phone number and added it to ours.

After weeks of not receiving any phone calls I started feeling really disappointed, and wondered what I was doing wrong. Finally the phone rang, only for the owner of the other company to inform me that all my clients were calling them. At the time it was an absolutely humiliating moment, but reminiscing about it now it’s a funny story to look back on.

To this day I still think it’s vital to be aware of your market and familiar with competitors’ websites, so that you can see improve on what is already available. That being said, be careful to make sure the contact details on your website are really yours!

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?

Some of the managers and business owners I know often criticise their employees, saying they are not up to the job and telling me they prefer to do it themselves to “save time.” I’ve found this mindset is what most often leads to serious burn out. I was a bit like this starting out as well, but I have since then learned that trusting my team is much better that being an individualist.

The best tip I could offer would be to learn to delegate and to trust your co-workers and employees by listening to and supporting them. Since you are all working towards the same goal, incentivising them to provide feedback on how to improve the company is also necessary. It’s impossible to do everything yourself, however talented and keen you might be. By delegating what you can, you’ll be able to devote more energy to the tasks that really require your focus.

Ask yourself whether you are a boss or a leader of your team. As Russell H. Ewing once said, “A boss creates fear, a leader confidence.” Being a leader in your business means sharing your vision, bringing the team together, and not being afraid to ask for help.

It is always better to ask for help reaching your goal than to fail by being arrogant. Whether you’re too proud, afraid people will doubt your intelligence, or haven’t been brought up that way, if you don’t ask for help you won’t receive it. Even working for yourself, you need a team you can rely on — success stories about those who “did it by themselves” aren’t true. Today, Villatravellers is the product of many people’s hard work, including our team today, and all those who have worked alongside us over the years.

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?

There are actually two: the women in my life.

At the beginning, my mother was the only person who believed in my business. She trusted my vision and helped me financially. Part of living well is loving your work, and I’ll never stop being thankful to my mother for giving me the chance to do what I love.

The second person is Valentina, Villatravellers’ Administrative Manager, and also my wife. While some might think this is the classic cliché of a boss falling for his colleague, but we actually met and fell in love outside of work. In the first few years of my career, there was a time when I needed help but I couldn’t afford to hire employees. Valentina so kindly offered to help out. We’d spend evenings in the office, during many of which we’d eat pizza. Our favourite was a margherita with buffalo mozzarella and prosciutto.

For those first two years she worked selflessly without pay, helping grow the business into what it has become. Today she is not just one of the most important members of the Villatravellers team, but also my partner in life and a wonderful mother to our son.

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?

Today, tourism has become an incredibly competitive industry. While we are always trying to improve and innovate, it can sometimes be difficult to keep up.

Right now our goal at Villatravellers is to give our guests more than just a holiday at a beautiful villa. Our clients all have different approaches when it comes to how they like to travel, but we believe everyone should be able to enjoy an authentic experience. Our wish is that anyone who books a holiday with Villatravellers leaves with a suitcase full of unique memories.

Currently, we’re working on improving the experiences we offer, as well as adding greater personalisation to our clients trips. Additionally, we are currently developing an app, so that guests can manage their holidays with a sense of autonomy. The app will include updated information about both their villa and experience bookings, as well as a complete guide to the region and an interactive map. There’s lots more to explore, but we want to keep some surprises for the launch!

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?

There is no doubt about the impact that the pandemic has had on tourism, especially in the way that people travel. In 2021 these changes are already being seen.


Thanks to the rising popularity of smart working, travellers are looking for greater flexibility in their villa bookings and with cancellation policies. With flexible work becoming the new norm for so many, people are now turning an airport lounge or villa dining room into their office. We anticipate the rise of “workcations” will likely lead to increased off-season travel, as clients seek to avoid crowds of tourists.


Another emerging trend is longer holidays.

Usually our clients go on holiday for one or two weeks, but thanks to smart working many guests are now booking longer trips. To make the most of this trend, we have decided to offer discounts to guests who want to stay for longer than one week.


Thankfully the vaccination programmes around the world are slowly bringing about a return to normality. However, already this year we are seeing more guests seeking a guarantee of privacy in their accommodation. Without a doubt, villas are a great choice for this. Guests can enjoy an incredible holiday with their family or friends without having to worry about the risk of infection present in more public places.

Another important concern for guests is hygiene and sanctification. Whilst this has always been important to us, COVID-19 has made this an absolute priority for guests and staff. For this reason we have drawn up a list of steps for our hosts to respect. We also regularly inspect our villas to make sure that these standards are being upheld.


Today’s travellers are no longer content just to stay in a place and observe its beauty, be it natural or man-made, as an outsider. The modern traveller is searching for authenticity and wants to connect to the place that they are visiting, to truly feel like a local. Because of this, there is a growing desire for authentic and unique experiences that can bring about these sensations during a holiday.


The European parliament has stated that the pandemic has changed consumers’ priorities towards greener options. Because of this, a roadmap will be created to develop more sustainable forms of tourism which will reduce the environmental impact that comes from this sector. Sustainable tourism is the present and the future of travel, with an aim to promote understanding and appreciation of local cultures and traditions, to preserve the environment, and to respect the ways of life of the land and its people. By applying the principals of sustainable tourism, it is possible to keep the balance between the beauty of sharing “local treasures” with the world, and the necessity to preserve them for the next generation. There are solutions which will improve the local quality of life while creating unforgettable experiences and memories for tourists.

Tourism doesn’t and shouldn’t mean pollution, increasing cost of living, environmental damage, nightlife, or searching for luxury at the cost of traditional identities. On the contrary, real tourism contributes to, preserves, and sustains the local culture and natural beauty of the places tourists choose to visit, allowing them to enjoy the area with care and respect.

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

I’m not sure that a perfect holiday exists. When I travel — and this is the piece of advice I give to everyone — I try to remember that I am a guest. The rhythms, routines, languages and traditions are often different to those we know at home, and a tourist has to understand and accept that they can’t always expect it to be like home.

Let yourself go, don’t judge, live, and take part. A traveller loves, but does not judge. That’s the best experience.

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

We want to make our hosts and our guests aware of the importance of sustainability. We want our actions to contribute towards making the world a better place, part of a better culture.

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’d like to bring about a sustainable movement that the whole industry can follow. We have a great responsibility bringing together so many people for such an important cause.

The tourism industry has a great impact on the environment and it is our responsibility to take action to ensure change. The world is sadly suffering, but travel is a way to discover the beauty in the world. We have a duty to look after it, for ourselves and future generations.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Facebook — Instagram — Twitter — LinkedIn

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

Roberto Sortino of Villatravellers On The Future of Travel in The Post Covid World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.