Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia at Comcast Center
- One North 19th Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19103, USA
Four Seasons Tenure
- First hired in 2012, now since 2021
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Events Manager, Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues Geneva
- Four Seasons Hotel Firenze; Louis Vuitton, Paris, France; Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club, Surfside, Florida; Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel; Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues Geneva; Hotel Fouquet’s Barrière, Paris; Hyatt Hotels, Paris
- Hypokhagne, Lycee Saint-Sernin, France; Master’s Degree, Hôtellerie Tourisme, CETIA Toulouse, France; Masters Degree, Marketing des Services, IAE Toulouse, France
- Lima, Peru
- French, Spanish, English, Italian, and some Portuguese
A sales and marketing success at luxury hotel properties on both sides of the Atlantic, Sandra Oliva long disregarded advice to take her skills to operations and blaze a path to upper management. So how did she become Hotel Manager of Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia at Comcast Center? “I finally gave in to my curiosity,” she explains, adding that her career has been one of “constant exploration."
“I was in a comfort zone, and going into operations was a personal challenge. Sales and marketing is a lot about selling the dream while leading a hotel team is very concrete. But making things work has its own rewards in hospitality. The glamour can’t happen without it.”
Appointed in the summer of 2023, Oliva’s turn as Hotel Manager finds her overseeing all aspects of daily operations, including and especially the team. She is all about leading via connection and treating the talent with the same respect and care she gives to guests. That includes listening, empathizing, and creating a bond to give everyone a sense of belonging.
“What I really care about is understanding the needs and potential of our divisions and how they add up to a whole,” she says. “Management is not about my budget or my issues, but about the bigger picture.” She strives to be available to managers and individual personnel alike – “the most precious thing is taking time to talk” – and invites everyone to be creative in action and think outside of the box.
Guest relations is also high on Oliva’s must-do list, and she does her best to be in constant touch, the better to adapt her skills to meet client desires. “We like to say we operate by the Golden Rule. But looking at our hospitality through the eyes of our guests and getting to know them, their history, and experiences, it’s clear we need to please them not only as we would like, but as they would like.”
Oliva believes many personal characteristics have helped drive her success at Four Seasons and other hotels beyond, including natural charm, fluency in four languages, and a multicultural background. Born in Lima to a mother who gave her good values and a father of Chinese origins who she recalls as “extremely charismatic and funny,” she spent her teenage years in Toulouse in the southwest of France and decided early on to pursue a career in hospitality. “I knew I could never sit at a desk. Being in touch and connecting with people was always the most important thing to me.”
After earning two graduate degrees – one in hotel and tourism management, the other in marketing – she headed for Paris and her first job as an events coordinator for an international hotel group. As she moved up and broadened into sales, she got an offer from a retailer of high-end jewellery based in Geneva, Switzerland.
“I was set to make the move, but said the only thing that would keep me in hospitality was to join Four Seasons.” She sent her curriculum vitae to Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues Geneva in hopes of landing a sales position. “I sent it on a Monday and got interviewed on Wednesday. They hired me on Friday, and I started on Monday.”
Oliva’s turn with the company later took her to Four Seasons grand address in Saint-Jean- Cap-Ferrat on a peninsula overlooking the French Riviera, as well as to Surfside, Florida, with her leading sales and marketing at each. Then, in the summer of 2020, longing to be near her family again, she took a “break” from luxury hospitality and accepted an offer to co-direct Louis Vuitton’s flagship store in Place Vendome in Paris to experience and see another industry for a while.
One year later, mission accomplished, she returned to Four Seasons in Florence, but this time in operations. “I already knew how to be a Director of Marketing. It was time for a challenge.”
Two years later, Oliva made her return to North America, to embark on her journey above the clouds as Hotel Manager at Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia at Comcast Center. Oliva is reunited with and working alongisde General Manager Cornelia Samara, her former General Manager during her time as Director of Sales and Marketing.
Always on the run and connecting at work, Oliva says she likes to spend time away from the Hotel doing just the opposite. “I know the notion of attaining wel-lbeing can seem cliché these days, but I’m really trying to do it,” she says, reeling off meditation, Pilates, yoga, and even Salsa dancing and pottery lessons as pursuits that ground her downtime.
“It’s a positive mid-life crises thing, I guess,” she adds with a laugh. “I’ve been very fortunate to lead a fantastic life surrounded by luxury and elegance, but at the end of the day, I’m like that Jennifer Lopez song – just ‘Sandra from the Block.’”