• Ryan Haynes

Photographs & Memories - Simone Puorto - Setting fire to hospitality

Updated: Nov 17

With an ambition to become a philosophy teacher, our next Memory Maker entered hospitality at 19 and didn’t look back. Simone Puorto carved out a career from being at front desk to general manager of a chain of boutique hotels now one of the foreleaders on metaverse, ai and automation.


Bringing an edge of science fiction to his consultancy, Simone’s photographs and memories most certainly depict his character. A self-confessed music freak, he shares his love for Joy Division as a failed punk musician and his pilgrimage to visit the iconic spots of the band. Simone explains his disappointment at how advertising can override poignant issues in society.



Simone also delves into his passion for robots on the trip of a lifetime to Japan where his two worlds of technology and buddhism collide. “We were visiting toy shops and buddhist temples. It was a bizarre experience, especially meeting a cyborg monk - imagine an android pope?!’ Here, Simone learnt firsthand the importance of the role of robots in society and the opportunities for hospitality.


We travel to Barcelona for Simone’s souvenir - listen in to find out the significance of his hotel experience and the TV series LOST. In his Fawlty Towers moment, Simone explains how a photoshoot went up in flames the day before opening ‘We wanted more fire….[in the end]...everything was black, [we had to] black-spray paint everything’.


Simone is a journalist, keynote speaker, published author, lecturer and consultant specialising in travel technology. During his 25-year career he has been a general manager at a boutique hotel and VP of global accounts for WHIP, a French-American web agency. In 2017 he founded Travel Singularity consultancy firm where he has advised many hotel groups and travel start-ups. He describes himself as a Metaverse Ambassador and Crypto Evangelist. He lives and works between Rome and Paris.


Each episode we invite an industry professional to share 2 photographs and a treasured souvenir from their travels representing moments particularly important to them. Join us as we go on a journey through time to explore the significance of each.


A Travel Market Life series, Photographs & Memories is a Haynes MarComs production, hosted and sponsored by Atomize.


For more episodes and details of the series Photographs & Memories, visit https://www.haynesmarcoms.agency/travel-market-life


Program Notes


Michael McCartan:

My memory, Maker Today is Simone Puorto. Welcome to Photographs and Memories with me, Michael McCarton Each episode. We invite an industry professional to share three photographs and a treasured souvenir from their travels, representing moments particularly important to them, Join us as we go on a journey through time to explore the significance of each. Check the podcast description to view the images of these treasured memories,


Michael McCartan:

Simony is a journalist, keynote speaker, published author, lecturer, and consultant specializing in travel technology. During his 25 year career. He has been a general manager at a boutique hotel and vice president of global accounts for a French American web agency. In 2017, he founded Travel Singularity Consulting firm where he has advised many hotel groups and travel start ups,


Michael McCartan:

Simone Puorto, Welcome to Photographs and Memories.


Simone Puorto:

Thank you for having me.


Michael McCartan:

So you've shared two Photographs of people and places that represent special moments to you, and a third photo of a souvenir from your travels. During the course of our conversation, you will take us on a journey through time reflecting on the significance of each photograph. But before we begin, please tell us how you came to work in the hospitality industry.


Simone Puorto:

Whew, that's a good one. As many people I didn't want to, So I was, I was 19 at the time and I was, I wanted to be, believe it or not, I wanted to be a philosophy teacher. So I was still studying philosophy and I was, and I needed to pay for my studies and I said, Look, what is the dumbest work I can get? And I said, Let's go, let's go and be a hotel receptionist. And then I realized that it wasn't, it wasn't that dumb, it was pretty hard and, but I, but I kind of liked it after a while. So, you know, I started, I started working and, and became front office manager.


Simone Puorto:

And then I work, I worked a lot in mice, became general manager for a small chain of beautiful hotels in, in Italy. And this was around probably nine, 10 more or less. And I wanted to, to, to help auto leaders, mainly with their tech and, and to, to give like a better level of consulting. And this is when I opened my own consulting firm and we are talking now probably 20in 17, something like that. So I started, you know, just adding some level of science fiction to the consulting and so.


Simone Puorto:

It worked So, it didn't, but, you know, it was a lot of fun. And, and after this, especially after Covid, you know, and this new need of, you know, lalabourhortage, need of automation and everybody's talking about automation now, in the meantime, not to get bored. I wrote for books and I started working quite heavily with different web street projects, mainly Metaverse and NFTs. And yeah, that's pretty much my story.


Michael McCartan:

So let's, let's have a look at your first photograph. I'm really fascinated to hear about this, the story behind your love affair with Joy Division and y Curtis.


Simone Puorto:

Yeah, that's, yeah, that's a very long love story. Longer than the one with my wife actually. You know, there is always, I'm a music trick. I'm very into music. You can, say I'm a fake musician and I wanted, you know, I played in many punk bands when I was very young. I think my first partner I was in, I was probably 12, 13, so I always had this great interest in music and, but I don’t know, and I always listened to pretty much everything, but the first time, and I, I do remember that a friend of mine came with a, with a VHS tape of it was all black and it was this just a white and black on with this very minimal font, and it said, Joy Division.


Simone Puorto:

And I said, What is that? And we watched the concert and I didn't know what to do with that, you know, because it was like everything was, was pretty dark and, you know, it was probably fun made. So the sound was horrible. But there was something, you know, looking at this at this amazing performer that, that Curtis was, was like a, like a revelation. So I wanted to know more about that. And, you know, this was pre-internet of course, so you had to, to go to record shops or, you know, to, to get in touch with friends or, or to exchange tapes over, over the mail.


Simone Puorto:

And so I started getting, getting, getting music from, from Joy Division, and I started following in love with, with, with music, with, with the lyrics. And I started listening to a lot, you know, what, what we call now gothic music, But Joy Division always had something different, you know, they, they, they were not, to me, they're still not a, a sad band to a certain extent, you know, it's just, but it's like if you go to Manchester for the first time, you see that that's okay, that's during Division, okay? That's, you see the buildings and you see like everything is so factory and you understand that they really were able to create the sound of the city.


Simone Puorto:

And that is always amazing, amazed me, you know, I think the only, the only other musician that was able to do that probably was David Bow when he was in, in Berlin. And I did something similar. So to have a long story short, I fell involved with Jo Vision, but I'd never been to Manchester or not. So a couple of months ago, I knew that Peter Hook, that was the original bass player for Joy Vision and New Order was playing and he was playing all the Joy Vision discography. And I said, Okay, let's go. The only place I could go to to watch the concert was London. But then my wife said, Okay, I wanna come to, I said, Okay, let's go.


Simone Puorto:

And, but why don't we stay a little longer? Maybe we made my brother and the brother of my wife live in Leeds and So, it became a, like a 10 day vacation. I said, You know what? Okay, let's do it. Let's do it right Or once, so let's go and let's, let's go through all the joy vision, important places. So, of course, I went to MCs and that was the place where, where Curtis lived and, unfortunately died. And, then of course it was Manchester, you know, was like the joy city. And the photograph you looking at is from a mural made by an artist called a and this unfortunately is gone now, and this is like very recent news just last week.


Simone Puorto:

And the story is pretty, it's pretty sad because this, this mural was painted not only to celebrate one of the, you know, the musicians from, from Manchester. This was painted to raise awareness around mental health problems. You know, Curtis kill himself at 23. That is, you know, it's very sad. And, and this, this rapper, I'm not even saying the name because I apologize that I, you know, it's, it makes no sense. But this rapper put an advertisement for his new album on top of the original Euro, and it's still unclear who's responsible, the artist says is not responsible.


Simone Puorto:

Amazon music explained that they didn't exactly know what was going on, but still, the mural is gone and there was no way to restore it. Unfortunately, you know, with black paint, there's nothing you can do. So the only thing Manchester is doing now is they're, they are trying a new, probably new spot to, to spray paint a new mural of Curtiss. But to me, first of all, it was, it was very beautiful. I need to tell you that, you know, it's, and I've seen photos before going there, but seeing it in person was great. And, second of all, it was pretty sad because it was really an advertisement over a very serious issue.


Simone Puorto:

And, you know, every day, I think, look, if it was 23, you know, it was naive and, and maybe if he could just survive a couple of more years and you know, like new order became super famous and maybe, maybe it would've become famous as well. And you know, and we, I will be listening to new young music today and unfortunately, that's not the case. So that's pretty sad. And that is why I gave, you know, I sent you the image with, with a, with a name of the jpeg. And that is Money Will Tear Us Apart because that's a reference to a very famous Division song that is Love will terror us apart. But in this case, Mon one, unfortunately.


Simone Puorto:

And even though I mean advertisement, this was very disrespectful.


Michael McCartan:

Yeah, very sad. And as you said, mental illness is a huge problem now. And hopefully getting more attention and, you know, people with mental illness getting more support than they would've done back in, in Curtis's Day. So yeah, Let's look at your next photograph, which is the complete opposite. And as a technology guy, Yeah, quite an interesting one. Tell me about it.


Simone Puorto:

So, you know, another passion of mine is, is Eastern religion. So, you know, and I, and I've been studying Buddhism for quite a long time, especially Japanese Buddhism. And so, and I'm, and I'm really into manga as well. I'm a big UQ fan, so I love a lot of things about Japan. On top of that, I'm a toy collector, so if, you go to my place, you will find a lot of, you know, of Godzilla toys and stuff from the eighties. So to me, going to Japan was like a trip. I say, let's go like, you know, a couple of weeks and I will buy like a ton of toys. And so the plan was, we, we visit toy shops and, and Buddhist temples.


Simone Puorto:

That is, you know, strange, strange connection. But, so the best way, the best way to do it is to go to, to Kdo. You know, they have some of the most beautiful temples and one of those, it's called Koji. And I'm pretty sure I'm pronouncing it very wrong. But the interesting thing about that is, first of all, it's 400 year old temple So, it's amazing. And second thing is that the monk in the temple is not human, but it's actually a cyber, it's artificial, it's a, it's a project made by, it's a collaboration between the Osaka University, the, the professor is called, again, I could be pronouncing wrong, Uhhi.


Simone Puorto:

And, it was created to bring more people, especially young people, to Buddhism, you know, that is losing, losing believers year after year. And so if you go there, you'll see this, this android reciting what is called, the heart sutra. And it's, it's a Buddhist sutra, probably the most well known of the sutra. And, and it's a very bizarre experience because you got this amazing like million dollar machine that is giving you, so is telling you these deep words about, you know, humanity.


Simone Puorto:

And the first thing that I, that I thought even, even though I'm a techno enthusiast, as you can tell, and I thought if we do something like that in Europe, this would be like Blay, you know? And so I was curious and at the end, there were a few human monks and I said, Look, can I ask you something? And you know, my wife, she speaks a little bit of Japanese, so I, you know, it was a bizarre conversation, but we did it again. I said, Look, you know, if we do something like that in, in Europe, like in Italy for example, I'm Italian like this will be like, imagine ay pop that will be like sort bla.


Simone Puorto:

And we gave this amazing answer. Look, we, we, we've been living with robots for so long and you know, and they, they have this crazy low mentality rate, for example. So for them, it's pretty normal to have robots, for example, Look, if you go to Japan and you need to go to the hospital for whatever reason, chances are that you will find a robot that will take you from one bed to another because they don't have enough young people to do that. And that's been a problem for 25 years. And as I said, they said, Look, we, we, for us robots, it's just part of our culture.


Simone Puorto:

And, and he said, Look, don't you watch like cartoons? And I started thinking, Hmm, yeah, it's right. You know, I, I grew up with big robots from the seventies and the eighties. And, and on top of that, what you need to understand about the, Buddhism is that it's a, it's a non-dualistic religion. Okay? It's not even a religion actually. It's, it's more a philosophy. There's no God in, Buddhism, you just follow the Buddhas path and the path can be shown by anybody, you know, and anything, so human machine, a tree, whatever, you know, and, and anything anyone can reach this enlightenment that is the Buddha nature, you know, that's awakening.


Simone Puorto:

Yeah. So to me, it was amazing because you had this at first, and I, I think for us it was very bizarre. And that started, you know, I got in touch with the temple. I got in touch with the university because I wanted to know more, of course. And, and they told me more about, you know, the fact that right now there's no, there's no real AI involved. So the only thing the cyber can do is, is recite this stra, but they're working to add a layer of machine learning so that at least in the, in the main idea of, of professor and, and mo, this will become like an immortal message for Buddhism, Okay.


Simone Puorto:

That will learn and learn and learn with, you know, by talking to other monks or by talking to people. And to me that's, that's pretty fascinating, you know, in a way, it's very, very fascinating.


Michael McCartan:

Yeah, incredible. And, I'm sure, you know, just going back to the earlier point we made about technology and hotels and how technology can free up some of the tasks that humans are performing now and make the jobs more interesting. It, it's, I mean the fact that a religion or a doctrine has, has sort of adopted technology fully, like this really is a, is a, a path forward for hotels or beacon for hotels to consider. I'm sure. So let's, let's have a look at your, your souvenir, couple of beer bottles, pretty ordinary, right?


Simone Puorto:

Yeah, yeah. So I'm a big Lost fan, okay? I still think to this day that lost was the best show ever made, ever ad in television, especially like the pilot was amazing. And in Barcelona there was unfortunately closed a few months ago, a bar completely dedicated to lost and that is called, it used to be called Armor. And they sold a lot of stuff and I was able to buy a couple of, I don't know if you can say in my camera, a couple of Barma beers.


Simone Puorto:

And so if you remember the episode, I don’t know, have you ever, first question, have you ever watched Lost or No, I


Michael McCartan:

Have never watched it. I have to confess. But I'm aware of it, but yeah, inform me.


Simone Puorto:

Yeah. Okay, so the first thing you need to watch Lost and we can talk again, we can be friends again after that, but So it is on my list. Yeah. But so long story short, you know, this, this, this, the playing crashes on an island and there's a lot of crazy stuff going on that's lost in a nutshell. Okay? Six seasons of Lost can be concise in that. But, but you know, these guys, they had no food, they had nothing. And at some point, you got this like macho character and an open like box and inside the box, there's a lot of beer from this organization that was called the DMA Organization.


Simone Puorto:

And funny story, when I opened my first hotel, the name of the hotel was Dharma and that was another reverence to loss. And so, you know, it's a full circle. So whenever I used to go to Barcelona, I always tried to go there because you got some relics and you got a lot of, you know, autographs from, from actors that played in Lost. And, and every time I just was trying to buy, to buy something, honestly, I had more, I drank a few of those, they were good, but I, I just want to keep those there kind of falling apart now that probably 10 years. But yeah, I think, it's a pretty cool, ator on top of that from a, from a touristic point of view, this was a Barcelona where you should usually don't go if you're a tourist.


Simone Puorto:

Yeah.


Michael McCartan:

So we are running out of time really quickly, but before we wrap up as a hotelier, you would've experienced some unusual incidents on the property. So please, we have this Fawlty Towers moment in the series. So please share your Fawlty Towers moment with us.


Simone Puorto:

So let me tell you the story. We were doing this building, this beautiful hotel, and originally this was the office, okay? So this was not built to be, to be an accommodation provider and we wanted to do something cool and we came up with the idea, well, the architect came up with the idea of bio, how do you call that bio fireplaces, you know, these are like fireplaces that go with gas or whatever. And so we, we had the photo shooting and, and the, the photograph is a close friend of mine and, and I wanted, and I was looking at the fire So, it looks cool,


Simone Puorto:

And I asked, is it fine if we put a little more fire? Yeah, yeah, sure, no problem. And so, we put a little more gas and we had a little more fire, but the photograph was not convinced. And I like, look, I can Photoshop that, but if we can have a little more real fire, that would be great. And I asked the architect, Are we good with like fire safety, everything is under control, eh? Yeah. You know, it's Italy. Yeah. More or less. And said, Yeah, let's try. And at some point, like out of the blue, everything started to burn down. And this was one day before opening. So what you're, what you're looking at. So, first of all, you didn't know what to do and the photographer was quick enough to go to the bathroom, take a couple of wet towels and we had to extinguish the fire in, in a way because we didn't even have a fire extinguisher, you know, it's just crazy thinking about now it's like everybody could go to drink that day.


Simone Puorto:

And but the day after, we had the first client coming up and we were fully booked. So, as you see from the picture everything is black. And originally this was a very light shade of wood. So the only thing I thought was okay, let's go and buy some black spray pants and we black spray paint everything. So that was the best suite in the hotel and it was fully booked for the first week. So the first week everybody that lept in that room slept with this, you know, spell of black paint. And they never know that, you know, behind that black painter was like, everything was taken fire.


Simone Puorto:

So yeah, it happens. Brilliant.

Michael McCartan:

Well Simone, it's been an absolute pleasure having you on the show and thank you once again for being on Photographs and Memories.


Simone Puorto:

Yeah, thank you. It was great. Thank you.


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