1) Reading your biography, I see that you have wide expertise in travel, lifestyle and real estate, which is very important to understanding the world of luxury tourism. What is your concept of this travel genre?
For me there are three key elements to luxury travel: authenticity, access and experience. While I appreciate the inherent comforts of a nice room, delicious food and a hot shower, I take them for granted at a certain level of travel. What matters more is that my experience in a city or out in the remote is “real”. I want to meet locals, chat with them, taste their food, and experience their culture and way of life as they do. Traveling with a good guide can be a really luxurious experience: You can’t put a price on one who shares their world and has the talent to elucidate it. “Access” can be just about anything and goes hand-in-hand with “experience”: from watching a chef prepare a special dish, to touring an otherwise inaccessible section of a church or museum, to hiking a trail known only to locals. All of this culminates in a travel experience with “take-away” – those moments you won’t find in guidebooks that will dazzle your friends over a glass of wine years later when talk turns to favorite journeys.
2) Most of your clients are from Ecuador. Why did you choose this destination? How long have you been working with them?
Actually, my company works in Chile and Africa as well. Whatever the region, the best referrals come word-of-mouth from other clients. That is how I was recommended to our first Ecuadorian client. Once I traveled to Quito and onwards to the Galapagos, my initial interest was more than confirmed. The beauty of Old Town Quito is enthralling, and don’t even get me started on the Galapagos Islands... I have become a birder with my own binoculars because of the Galapagos – they turned me into a geek! I say this with total affection, of course.
3) Can you give us an overview of luxury tourism offerings in Ecuador?
I hope that you don’t expect me to be impartial, as I am completely biased towards our clients. I think that Casa Gangotena is hands-down the finest hotel in Quito. Join in the hotel’s “Quito Experiences,” offered free to guests each afternoon, to learn about Ecuadorian chocolate, limpias and the historic neighborhood outside, and you will fall in love with the city like I did. Hop in a car and within a few hours you’ll be in the heart of the Equatorial Chocó, one of the most-threatened tropical forests in the world, where Mashpi Lodge proudly overlooks one of the planet’s hotspots of biodiversity. The lodge is a modern glass-and-steel structure with 22 rooms built in the exact spot where a lumber mill logged until about a decade ago, and it recently became one of the original National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World.
To the question of whether one should see the Galapagos Islands by land or by sea, I would say try both. Crucial considerations when choosing a vessel to explore the archipelago are the itinerary and the size of the boat. A mid-size yacht with space for around 40 -100 passengers is the perfect size to guarantee that every guest will have sufficient access to naturalists. Having a good idea of the species they’d like to see and experiences they’d like to have will help travelers choose a tour operator that offers an itinerary that suits their travel needs. Africa may have the “Big 5” but the Galapagos has the “Big 15,” and you’ll want to experience as many as you can.
4) How would you maximize Ecuador´s luxury tourism offerings, services and promotions?
One of the little-known aspects about Ecuador for Americans is the size of the country paired with its diversity. My advice to anyone traveling to Ecuador would be to explore the mainland first and then head to Galapagos. The destinations are so diverse and there are so many luxury hotel offerings, often there is no need to fly to see an incredible variety of cultures, flora and fauna.
5) In your opinion, which of the four worlds (Amazon, Andes, Coast and Galapagos) is the most developed in this tourism category?
The popularity of the Galapagos is the most significant aspect of tourism in Ecuador, but there is so much more! I would imagine that the Andean regions are the most developed.
6) Do you plan to work in other projects within Ecuador in the months ahead?
Yes, we are launching the new Santa Cruz II yacht in the Galapagos and are on an ongoing mission to help American travelers better understand the wide range of travel options in the archipelago. The destination is so wonderful and complex; it helps to know what you’d like to experience and see when you plan such an iconic journey. Understanding the Big 15 is a good starting point.
7) Can you recommend any ways for high-end hotels & lodges in Ecuador to improve or modernize to better appeal to luxury travelers from around the world?
I firmly believe that Ecuador is on a great path to expand its reach into more international markets as global travelers learn more about destinations and tourism options. The most committed offerings in the luxury segment have long understood that the international travelers come to Ecuador for an experience. In Ecuador as anywhere, the experiences travelers seek are those created by locals that offer a glimpse into their world in authentic environments.
8) ANDREA SCHNOOR COMMUNICATIONS (ASC) works in media relations and communications. What are the specific features in which you work and specialize?
Andrea Schnoor Communications (ASC) is a boutique communications firm that helps companies stand out in an information-rich world. Constantly evolving technologies and carefully tended media contacts enable ASC to connect with diverse audiences via of-the-moment mediums used by influencers, tastemakers and decision makers to formulate ideas, spread inspiration and fuel desire. Our emphasis and expertise is on providing custom-designed communications support, media exposure, website realization, product launches and event promotion.