#Voices of Travel: Antonio Salvador from Ecuador pens his story

 

In our ongoing series, we explore how the humans of travel are mitigating the ongoing COVID19 outbreak. Today Antonio Salvador from Outlet Viajes- Ecuador speaks to us.

Outlet Viajes is an Ecuadorian DMC and inbound tour operator specialising in tailor-made expeditions in the country’s four regions: Pacific Coast, Andes Mountains, Amazon Rainforest and Galapagos Islands. Through tourism, we display the country’s social, cultural, geographical and natural attributes and promote the sustainable development of its inhabitants in harmony with the natural environment.

We prepared this year by attending two of the most important tourism trade fairs, WTM in November 2019 and Fitur in January 2020. There, we presented some of the itineraries that we carefully curated for 2020. Some of the itineraries that we proposed for this year are self-drive tours along the Avenue of the Volcanoes or a “foodie” oriented trip to discover a new wave of ambitious and creative Ecuadorian chefs. Together with our partners in Peru and Colombia, we have designed cultural oriented itineraries to get a wider glimpse of the Andean culture, its Spanish and indigenous heritage and the rich biodiversity of the South American continent.

While in Fitur and being able to connect with people from all over the world, we were able to understand more about the situation. European outbound tour operators already mentioned to us that their clients’ interest to travel to Asia was decreasing and that they expected more tourists to be aiming at Latin American destinations. During February, we were busy replying to travel requests for the summer, however the clients were hesitant to formally commit the proposals sent. The situation started to change dramatically as the first cases in Latin America were reported. Ecuador is currently under lockdown and all the airports are closed except for charter flights organised for foreigner nationals to return to their home countries.

We are suggesting passengers not to cancel the trip, but rather to postpone it for a later date. There is much uncertainty now, so it’s difficult for tourists to decide at this time. For passengers and companies that have requested cancellation, we are in the middle of processing these requests.
As a company our office is currently closed, and all the personnel are working from home. We are being active on social media to share interesting aspects of our country’s culture, history and nature. This year we started a sustainability certification process, so we are working hard these days to advance along. Our staff is also receiving online training in topics related to sustainability and accessible tourism.

The Ecuadorian Ministry of Tourism announced yesterday a few actions that will be taken to minimise the harsh impact to the tourism industry. Among the actions are loans and financing options, deferment on monthly tax payments and to strengthen the country’s communication and marketing campaign abroad. These are certainly important actions and we hope that they will help mitigate losses. From our side, we will support this decision and among the activities that we are currently doing is training travel agents around the world through webinars to learn more about Ecuador as a destination and the services that we offer.

Being proactive, being communicative and open to suggestions from everyone that is part of the tourism industry. Now, more than ever, we need to be united, responsive and creative. Tourism employs many people around the world and is key to guarantee the development and economic stability of many nations. We need to find a way of bringing back the confidence of tourists to travel, we need to adopt the right measures for a safer and healthier travel and to scale up our operations taking in consideration the tourism supply change from the bottom up.

Our employees are fully aware of the situation and more than ever they are committed to help the company bounce back as soon as we are able to get back to business. We have provided our employees with the technical means to work from home, to stay safe and be closer to their loved ones during these harsh times. We are being communicative, and we are taking full advantage of technology to work together.

To be strong, to be optimistic, to be resilient but furthermost to be safe. Let’s travel with our imagination, from memories of our best trips to help us get through these times. There is a lot to reflect on what’s going on, on how nature is responding to this humanity slow down for example. This is also a good moment to take care of aspects in our businesses that we have put aside because we’ve been busy and we’ve lacked time.