In one line, what makes you a PUREist?
Visit, learn, share, act, inspire. These are what characterises a PUREist, who is a person tolerant and capable of admiring each situation, each destination and each person in this mega diverse world.
Tell us your story – how did you get where you are today?
I studied Commerce Engineering with a Marketing specialisation at Quito’s prestigious Catholic University, graduating in 2002, and since that time I have dedicated myself to the tourism business. I later completed a postgraduate degree in Planning and Tourism Destinations Management at the School of Tourism and Hotel Management (Escuela Universitaria de Turismo y Dirección Hotelera – UAB) in Barcelona, Spain. My thesis dealt with Restructuring Community Ecotourism Products in Ecuador.
Since 2004 I have been directing the Quito-based tour operator Tropic, initially as manager and more recently as owner-manager. Since my arrival, Tropic has become a major player in the ecotourism sector in Ecuador and also on the international stage. The company has been recognised many times by its peers, both for its ethical approach to tourism and its promotion of community tourism as a tool to promote both human welfare and conservation.
Over the years I have worked closely with both the private and public sectors to promote community eco-tourism, and presently I speak frequently on this and related subjects at national and international symposia.
Can you share with us your single most life-enriching experience?
I think the beauty of life is how dynamic it is and how the many different experiences you have build your character and enrich your soul. My experience is still moving by being engaged full time in demonstrating that environmentally sustainable and culturally sensitive tourism can be a viable business model. One of most notable moments has been developing an award-winning enterprise with communities of indigenous Huaorani people in the Amazon region of Ecuador, who faced real challenges to their culture from oil and resource exploration.
What does the term ‘experiential travel’ mean to you?
I firmly believe that experiential travel is letting yourself go and allowing yourself to live in the moment as it is. Ecuador is a place that challenges your senses. I have lived here for the past 20 years and I couldn’t believe that I could witness so many dramatic changes in such a short space of time and in such a diverse landscape. Experiential travel is about becoming guardians of our destinations: understanding and caring about the locals, which in Ecuador means multicultural exchanges where many different languages and costumes can be experienced in the course of just one day!
One of the things I love the most about the Huaorani experience (that I think is one of the most representative experiential travel enterprises) is witnessing how each one of our guests slowly lets the Huaorani spirit guide them in the forest. It’s like becoming a child and re-learning how to interact with others in a completely different environment.
Describe your ideal client: how do they approach travel?
One of the things I underscore with our team here is that we are in the people business. This means we are concerned with different personalities, customs, tastes, days that clients experience that are brilliant and days that aren’t so good. There is no ideal client, just as there isn’t a perfect husband or wife or son. You adapt professionally to each and every situation and client you experience and serve.
We are all people, equal but different. This being said, we feel that most of our clients are willing to be “guided” and that is a huge responsibility when in the Amazon, Mountains or Galapagos. We are both Guardians and Ambassadors presenting each place and situation in as honest, transparent and fantastic a way as we can. We explain our Ecuadorian way of life carefully to our clients – and they love it!
What made you decide to join PURE Life Experiences and how has doing so benefitted your business?
We are always looking for a new tribe to meet and join, we are very excited about going to PURE for the first time to learn a lot and share what we have learned and developed over the years here in Ecuador.
So far, it’s been a fun process. Being accepted as a PUREist is part of it as well as this sense of freedom to express what and who we really are. I am looking forward to Marrakech and being there in person.
What role do you think PURE has to play in the high-end experiential travel industry?
I think PURE is already playing that role by challenging professionals to think outside the box, to innovate, to transform traditional ways of thinking about this industry, forcing us to develop new and unique travel experiences that are both rewarding and sustainable.
Some people say that it’s hard to keep up with the evolution of technology nowadays (which is true). I think this tribe embraces the challenge to understand how sophisticated our clients are becoming and how we can keep up and amaze them with life-enriching moments above and beyond technology.
What other brands and companies in high-end experiential travel do you admire the most?
I always joke with my friends and clients about the first thing I would do when going to travel show. I run into the Africa Halls to see what’s the latest; I have a few Wilderness Safaris brochures and I am always amazed by the stuff they do while keeping sustainability concepts alive with the 4Cs. My dream is to have the capacity to grow in such a way while inspiring people to remain committed to what brought me into this adventure.
If there were one thing you could change about the travel industry, what would it be?
Thinking about travel shows and events like PURE I must face the amount of waste we generate to please each one of us with the latest brochures, hand-outs etc.
On a much deeper sphere we have to start considering in our business plans the lack of income and economic opportunity in local communities. This often leads to over-exploitation, and even a complete disregard for water and other natural resources. This is further compounded by a lack of knowledge about the impacts over-exploitation has on the sustainability of the communities themselves.
The second is the protection of the local environment in a general sense: the conservation of water supplies, fishing grounds, coastal mangrove forests, rainforests and their biodiversity.
The third problem is bringing these communities and their projects together under one banner. A financial instability may be caused by a lack of both marketing capacity and the expertise necessary to appropriately manage and operate their tourism enterprises in the initial stages.
Finally, who is your experiential hero?
I have a few heroes that helped me understand this business and handle the rollercoaster I have been living for the past 10 years running a fast growing business with multiple operations in remote areas.
That said, I need to highlight the Huaorani people. Their impact on me has been most profound. To be able to clear your mind and really listen may sound like something simple, but nowadays I treasure my ability to truly listen to others and this has become one of my most powerful tools. It is a gift given to me by these forest people.
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