Paulina Burbano de Lara is a true symbol of transition in Metropolitan Touring. She was brought in when Grupo Futuro bought the company in 2001, and has been witness to (and an active part of) the joys of seeing it grow, continuing the legacy and keeping alive the innovative spirit that made it the world’s most important showcase of Ecuador’s treasures 60 years ago.
You would imagine Ecuador’s leading tourism agency, so connected to the global market, so closely linked with agencies and providers around the world, would be powered by state-of-the-art technology. And if not at a global scale, at least in comparison to its Ecuadorian peers. Marcela Romero, however, remembers having to borrow the telex machine from “the neighbors”, such as Casa Paz, the exchange office, or Hotel Colon, feeling just a sight tinge of envy. When the telex was out of order, she’d have to pick up her ribbons, stick them in a bag and run to the nearest neighbor to work in sleek telex machines, that just seemed so much more user-friendly than the one she was forced to use. “At the time, it belonged in a museum… actually; I think someone told me it is in a museum!”
Ana Cristina Valdivieso, 22, was not the office type. She worked for Ecuadorian Tours as a guide, and loved it. She travelled, got to see Ecuador, got to see those special things she still remembers, like the Otavalo fruit market, or how she puts it, “where Otavalo’s really at”. She would be off every weekend, during the week, meeting people from different countries and cultures, filling her eyes with the colours and flavours of her country. She didn’t envy regular jobs one bit. When a good friend asked Cristina to replace her at Metropolitan Touring for a month, she pouted. It wasn’t a guiding position. It was a boring office job.
“We’re still nomads…” Verónica Sevilla has thought of this phrase time and time again, and throughout her experience at Metropolitan Touring, she continues to stand by it. It’s Verónica’s second day off the job. She won’t be coming back, and although there aren’t tears in her eyes, she mentions that she’s moved to be sitting here with me, at the office.
It certainly seems like María Delia Cárdenas knows everything there is to know about Metropolitan Touring. She hasn’t even made herself comfortable, when suddenly she turns to me and asks, “do you know what INTRAV was?” I haven’t even had the time to present myself, but she’d obviously been briefed that I’m here to learn about Metropolitan Touring, and María Delia has set out to start from the beginning.
“Amazonia is just the greatest thing. A most spectacular place... ” And Xavier’s travelled, Xavier’s seen things. “But I don’t miss her... I carry her with me wherever I go.” Xavier, otherwise known as Tito, today lives in what, in many ways, is the exact opposite of the green, lush, rainy, fresh-water, voracious Amazon Basin: the Galapagos Islands. He leads the remarkable group of people who comprise the award-winning Finch Bay Eco Hotel.
Klaus Fielsch divides his life’s passions in two: art and biology. And looking back on it all, he seems amazed: “With that background, there was just no way I could have survived in this world”. Of course, he did. In what he calls, “the best office on Earth.” He was referring to the Galápagos Islands, and probably to Amazonia as well, where he began his work as a guide in Metropolitan Touring’s iconic Flotel Orellana.