Interview: Cristina Devito, Cofounder + COO Collective Retreats

CD: You have an impressive and really interesting resume! Can you give us the cliff note version? 

CD: I started my career in finance and management consulting, which gave me a great range of skills in analytics, client management and team leadership. Over the last six years, however, I’ve worked in building start-ups and have found that that it is what I’m truly passionate about. There is nothing more thrilling than seeing a company and team grow, while making guests and customers enjoy unique experiences.

CD: Where did the idea of Collective Retreats come from? What’s the WHY? 

CD: We believe that there is an opportunity to deliver beautiful, unique experiences while also providing the craft of luxury hospitality and guest service. We also believe that there is an inherent human desire to connect: to their environment (especially the outdoors), to each other and to themselves. Collective Retreats brings all of this together -- we believe that hotels should not just mean a bed and a hot shower. We believe that where you stay should be just as much a part of your experience as where you are going. Additionally, our asset light business model allows us to operate in places where traditional hotels can’t or won’t build, but where people dream of staying.

CD: There has been an increase in people seeking off-the-grid adventures. Why do you think we are seeing this and is it a trend or here for the long haul?  

CD: Absolutely!  We are seeing a strong, continuing rise in the trend of experiential and adventure-driven travel, as well as a desire for increased environmental stewardship. Becoming more aware of our impact on the environment causes us to better consider how we can better protect our planet and natural resources.  

CD: What kind of events are you seeing at the locations? Have you had a favorite/most unique? 

CD: Our amazing Reservations and Concierge team will curate itineraries unique to our guests and their interests. We have a wide range of activities to choose from at each retreat, and they vary based on what is authentic and local to the area in which we operate. For instance, our Vail retreat has horseback riding, whitewater rafting and fly fishing, while our Governors Island retreat in NYC will incorporate iconic New York oysters on our curated menus and offer outdoor movies at night -- our own take on a drive-in theater, without the car!

CD: Talk to us about the Traveler’s Mark. 

CD: The Traveler's Mark is something very unique to Collective Retreats and something that is also unique to each of our guests. The use of traveler marks has been around for over a century -- it's been a way in which travelers could communicate to each other while on the trail. Our own Collective Retreats logo is a take on the traveler mark for shelter. We created our own system to speak with our guests. Each of our retreats has, and each of our team members and guests can create, a Traveler's Mark unique to them. Each mark has three components: our shelter mark, an animal mark that speaks to the individual's personality, and a mark representing the individual's favorite travel terrain (for instance, urban, mountains, island or desert). They’re are a great way to provide our guests with a personal touch, with the hopes of sparking a conversation between the guests and our staff. You can make your own here!

CD: What do you love most about your job?  

CD: I love being on retreat and seeing the smiles from our guests and team members. There is something magical about being at one of Collective Retreats’ five locations. It is the combination of interacting with our amazing guests, who are truly immersed in the experience, and our rockstar team members, who show a passion and love for what they do every day. One of my favorite times of the day is sitting around the campfire with guests and team members alike, enjoying our chefs' homemade s'mores and connecting with others.

CD: Most challenging part of your job?

CD: Maintaining focus and prioritization is critical to growth. It's easy to get distracted by so many great ideas, but at the end of the day, focusing on key annual objectives and our company's mission is my priority. That's not to say that we don't pivot when something doesn't work, or take new opportunities as they present themselves, but we do it while considering our major objectives.

CD: Any Start-up challenges you’ve experiences thus far and how you are conquering. 

CD: Growing a new business is a challenge no matter which industry you are in. Our company is truly a people business. Not only do we have a strong focus on curating a beautiful guest experience, but we also place an emphasis on creating a great environment for our team members. Maintaining a strong Collective Culture is important to us and something we want to maintain and strengthen as we grow. Peter and I still interview every potential full-time team member, and we as a company invest in training at every level.

CD: Where  do you want to see Collective Retreats in 5 years? 

CD: Our vision is to create the best experiential travel company there is, and our mission is to do this by revolutionizing global travel through our collection of dynamic destination retreats and enriching experiences by connecting person, community and environment. We want to see Collective Retreats grow from the five retreats we’re operating today, to a robust portfolio of retreats across not only the U.S., but internationally as well. We want to do this by staying true to the craft of hospitality and luxury service, while also bringing people closer to the area they are exploring in an authentic and unique way.

CD: Favorite Travel Spot outside of the Retreat locations- have to ask! 

CD: I go sailing every year with a group of wonderful friends. A fan favorite is sailing around Corsica and Sardinia, where not only the sailing is amazing, but there are also many great spots to get provisions. We do a lot of cooking on the boat, so treasure hunting for great ingredients in town is one of our favorite things to do. The trip brings all of us together -- at least one time during the year -- and allows us to disconnect from the every day, be on the water, and enjoy time reconnecting with each other.

Collective Retreats-LIFE SMART by Carrie Dorr
Collective Retreats-LIFE SMART by Carrie Dorr