“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.
“Tourism is a beautiful addiction”, she tells me, “the kind of addiction that helps you grow, that does you good, that teaches you to appreciate the world around you”. Her three languages —English, German and Spanish —became a central part of her success at the company (she learned two more, Italian and Portuguese, along the way), and for 10 years, she served as Business Director for Australia, Canada, Latin America and Europe. A handful, no doubt.
Verónica’s first encounter with Metropolitan Touring took place when she was 17 years old, during a Galapagos cruise. She still evokes the awesome feeling of being in such an energizing and elementary corner of the world. Years later, when she was already employed at the company, she went with her family, and noticed how enthralled her son was about everything. It moved her. She felt the same way. “That’s what it is, you know… you become a child again… the tourism we pioneered in the Galapagos Islands, for example, traveling to places dominated by nature, makes you innocent, like a kid… you jump into the water, you look at animals with such amazement… you know, there should be studies done on this, they’d probably come to the same conclusion… nature takes us to our very core”.
Her tenure at Metropolitan Touring involved one of the many groundbreaking transformations within the history of one of Ecuador’s most groundbreaking companies. And that is, going global. According to Verónica, “it wasn’t just the whim of doing something crazy like moving to another country. We are a very well-respected company and our products and services in Ecuador are very high quality… We kept hearing clients ask us to manage their tours abroad as well. We’ve always had key partners with which we work, but it seemed that it just wasn’t the same. They wanted us!” The small travel agency Cuatro Rumbos, led by Gabriel Nikolai, had liked the idea of Metropolitan Touring bringing its consummate service and professionalism, ethics and overall success into Argentina, and Verónica remembers him coming up to Quito for the official meeting in which this possibility was first presented to the board. “It was a breaking point… it was like when you need to jump two steps up or you’ll fall… we had been toying with the idea, but suddenly, it made more sense than not.”
Veronica remembers packing her bags and heading to Chile, staying in hotels and meeting people left and right, trying to learn the ways of the town… “It’s not easy being the foreigner and planning to do things on someone else’s soil. It takes a lot of character. And Ecuadorians aren’t used to it.” A small company in Peru had already become a Metropolitan Touring branch there, and the next step was to conquer the third emblematic travel destination within the Americas after Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands: Patagonia. Chile seemed the obvious choice, since there was also pressure from the exclusive Explora Hotels for Metropolitan to establish a branch in the country, but Verónica pushed the company to involve Argentina as well. “We already had Gabriel from Cuatro Rumbos… all he was waiting for was for us to get onboard… That was a simple deal. And I felt Chile alone wasn’t going to really sell Patagonia as a whole… both countries had to be done together.” Metropolitan Touring then became one of Ecuador’s few multinational companies, a completely unexpected turn of events, that, like most things Metropolitan, was just the natural, necessary way to go.
“There are no books written on the subject… there is just not a single how-to on Earth that explains the intricacies, risks and advantages of an Ecuadorian company setting out to organize receptive tourism away from home. Of course, we must learn from the people in situ, we must trust them and let them work the way they work, but we also have to expect certain things, maintain our quality and spirit, because that is why we did this in the first place, because our clients didn’t only want South America, they wanted South America by Metropolitan Touring. To be part of that move, of that sudden explosion, fills me with great pride.”
Verónica Sevilla is starting her new company “Talent Solutions”, a company coaching and empowerment agency that wishes to bank on the human aspects of the corporate world to create successful ventures and a rich work environment. She will surely have a lot of great advice to spread from her ambitious, hard-working, globe-trotting years at Metropolitan Touring.