A Timeline of Metropolitan Touring’s History
Metropolitan Touring, Ecuador’s
largest and most significant travel company, and one of the most
recognized in South America, pioneered the development of travel to the
country and the region. It celebrates 60 Years
of Stories in March 2013: a great
opportunity to review the most important landmarks in the company’s
history, six decades leading the development of tourism in Ecuador and
Eduardo Proaño, Hernán Correa and Renato Pérez found the new Metropolitan Touring Travel Company, bought from the previous owners. A great story begins...
Metropolitan Touring is the first in Ecuador to offer specially designed tours of Quito, the Otavalo Indigenous Market, the Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas area; scenic train rides and more destinations along the country. The Receptive Tourism Department is created. The Era of Ecuador as a Tourism Destination for the world begins.
The prestigious North American tour operator, INTRAV, includes Ecuador within the four countries to be visited on its special “Around South America” exclusive tours. Metropolitan Touring is chosen to operate these tours in Ecuador. Perfect planning, visionary leaders and great attractions create a great effect on the visitors who “discover” this new and unique travel jewel. Every five days, an especially Chartered DC-8-63, the biggest and most modern Jet aircraft of those days, brings during three consecutive months, groups of 185 new passengers who enjoy an intensive programme of tours and cultural events.
Eduardo Proaño and Hernán Correa make their first visits of investigation to Galápagos, with a long-term vision of converting the Archipelago into a world-class Tourism destination, and a fantastic new addition to the company’s portfolio of tourism attractions.
After intensive negotiations and research, the sleek and classy 60-passenger Greek Yacht “Lina-A” is brought from the port of Piraeus, Greece, to Guayaquil, where it is officially inaugurated by the President of Ecuador on 4th December. The following day the yacht sails to Galápagos, arriving on 8th December, to start its regular and non-stop tour operations in the Archipelago, with pre-determined itineraries; with two special Charters of the prestigious Sierra Club from California. The Era of Organised Tourism begins in the Islands. Special arrangements are made between MT and the Ecuadorian Air Force, to Charter, twice a week, a DC-6 aircraft, with 80-passengers’ capacity, to bring the tourists in and out of the Islands.
A special model of “Responsible Tourism” had been previously devised jointly between the Galápagos National Park, the Charles Darwin Foundation, local residents and the Metropolitan Touring’s staff, especially designed to foster the conservation of the unique and fragile ecosystems of the Archipelago. As the model consolidates, it begins to be considered, and replicated in other areas, as an example of wise tourism management on natural areas. The now widely disseminated “Eco-tourism” model is born in Galápagos and replicated worldwide.
The success of the cruises aboard the Lina-A and a growth on the demand to visit this new wonderland of nature, prompts Metropolitan to make a new investment and bring in, from Canada, the ship “North Gaspe”, which is fully reconverted in Guayaquil and re-baptized as the M/V Iguana, a 70-passenger cruise ship designed to offer a different scheme of itineraries and to broaden the market niches.
The then quaint town of Francisco de Orellana (El Coca), on Ecuador’s Amazon region is the stage to begin the construction of a floating hotel, thus named the “Flotel Orellana”, to host 50 guests on unique expeditions along the Napo River and into fascinating locations of the country’s amazing Amazonian Region.
The Ecotourism cruises aboard the Flotel Orellana are inaugurated, and begin to offer the travellers, unique experiences among the superb nature of the area and a fascinating knowledge of the native cultures. After months of research and planning to identify the visitors’ locations, trails and guides’ training, following similar patterns of the already successful model established in Galapagos, Ecuador’s Amazonia opens to organised tourism.
The Hotel Delfin, located at a privileged location of Academy Bay, Santa Cruz Island, and just five minutes by boat from the main inhabited centre in the islands, Puerto Ayora, is refurbished by MT and begins to offer a new modality of tourism in the islands: the later called “locally-based tours”, combining local hotels and day trips by small boats to nearby islands. Metropolitan buys the three-hulled Yacht Delfin I, with capacity for 30 passengers to make daily visits to pre-established islands and locations, as per regulated itineraries.
The 16-passenger Yacht Isabela I is bought in the United States, refitted and begins to operate special cruises, targeted especially for small groups, private charters, families or special interest groups.
MT buys the small sailing yachts “Encantada” (10 passengers); “Sulidae” (10 passengers) and “Bronzewing” (6 passengers), to diversify the offer and cater for new market segments, looking for more intimate tours and longer duration to explore the islands more intimate and leisurely. By then, other companies, both local and from continental Ecuador, had already joined the tourism operations in the Archipelago, due to the growing demand and fame of the islands and their conservation-oriented model of visitation. The Government of Ecuador sees the necessity to regulate the tourism activities and commissions the National Park and Darwin Foundation, together with international experts, to establish some limits and special regulations, based on the “carrying capacity” of the pre-determined visitors’ sites.
Metropolitan Touring orders the construction, at a specialized shipyard in Bilbao, Spain, of the first brand-new vessel, especially designed and “tailor-made”, to cruise the islands by the Celaya Shipyards. To allow for its 90-passenger capacity, the Lina-A was already out of operation since 1975 and the Iguana is due to be replaced as soon as the new vessel arrives.
The luxury and brand-new Motor Vessel (M/V) Santa Cruz, officially begins its operations and offers the visitors, in addition to greater comfort and upgraded services; new itineraries, a team of top level Naturalist guides and expedition features to the voyage. Meanwhile, the Iguana terminates its operation as a passenger vessel to become a cargo ship to serve the company’s supplying and the islanders in general, bringing in goods from Guayaquil on a regular bi-monthly schedule.
MT combines forces with the Government of Ecuador to rehabilitate the legendary Trans-Ecuadorian Railway, constructed in the early 1900’s to unite the capital city of Quito, high in the Andes, with the main seaport, Guayaquil. The “Metropolitan Touring Express Rail Adventure” is inaugurated, featuring several segments of the route on specially fitted carriages. The spectacular and unique “Devil’s Nose” descent is the main attraction.
The Yacht Delfin I ceases activities but the Hotel Delfin remains active, with its hotel services and renting local boats for the day tours to other islands.
The Flotel Orellana moves its operation from the Napo River to a more pristine area on the Aguarico River, with new itineraries and attractions, near the Cuyabeno Reserve area. Two years later, the operation adds to its portfolio of services, the Jungle Camps of Imuya and Iripari, in close collaboration with the local indigenous communities.
The modern and luxurious Yacht Isabella II, with a 40-passenger capacity, fully reconverted in Pensacola, Florida, begins its operations to replace the Isabella I. New programmes and standards continue to improve the facilities, services and programmes.
Metropolitan Touring opens an Eco-tourism Department envisioning an expansion of these activities in other areas of the country. With the support of experts from Costa Rica, MT collaborates with the formulation of feasibility studies to establish ecotourism operations at the Machalilla National Park on Ecuador’s central Pacific coast.
The Grupo Futuro, led by Roque Sevilla, buys Metropolitan Touring and takes charge of the company’s management and operations, with a vision to steer the enterprise towards modernization, on par with the demands and new realities of the 21st century.
Metropolitan Touring introduces a new product on rails: the unique “Chiva Express” Rail Adventures, with three fascinating routes on segments of the Quito-Guayaquil Railway.
The former Hotel Delfin is thoroughly revamped and re-named as the “Finch Bay Eco-Hotel”. The hotel sets new standards and a higher bar for hotel services in the islands and locally-based tourism. Since then, the hotel has received numerous awards and recognitions from prestigious institutions of the travel trade as well as from renowned publications, praising its excellence in facilities and services, together with sound environmental practices and social responsibility. It becomes a role-model for Galápagos, Ecuador and the region.
The Finch Bay improves its programme of day trips, using its own yacht – the 20-passenger the Sea Finch – with which to explore the wonderful visitor sites of the archipelago. The Sea Finch is joined by the 16-passenger Sea Lion in 2010.
Metropolitan Touring acquires a prestigious Peruvian tour operator which becomes its first regional office, making it one of the few Ecuadorian multinational travel firms. The office’s General Manager is Alonso Roggero who had led the company until the purchase.
The exclusive and deluxe Yacht La Pinta, with capacity for 48 passengers, joins the company’s Galápagos fleet, introducing new levels of quality in accommodations, services and expedition features.
The regional offices in Chile are opened as an entirely new company, in partnership with the explora hotels. The first General Manager is Cristóbal Luna, replaced by Sebastián Morales in 2011. In Argentina, the new company takes the form of a partnership with the long-established tour operator, Cuatro Rumbos, and Explora, under the leadership of Cuatro Rumbos’s owner, Gabriel Nicolai.
Offices open in Brasil and Colombia, but it’s decided that Brasil should subsequently be put on hold. MT Colombia comprises the tour operator formerly run by Haidy Thorin, and the company is managed by Camilo Calderón.
Paulina Burbano de Lara becomes the Executive President of Metropolitan Touring, steering the company towards a new decade of innovation and challenges, with the support of Roque Sevilla and Grupo Futuro.
Metropolitan Touring buys and conducts a state-of-the-art restoration of a magnificent colonial mansion, to convert it into the exclusive Casa Gangotena, situated in one of Quito’s most privileged locations, across from the historic and colonial San Francisco Square, in Quito’s Historic Center. The quality of the accommodations, superb location and great service rapidly earn the new property numerous awards and recognitions from the travel industry.
The fascinating cloud forests to the northwest of Quito, just three hours from the capital, witness the inauguration of yet one more quality tourism property: Mashpi Lodge, a luxury cocoon in the clouds. The lodge immediately garners worldwide media attention and reinvents the concept of tropical forest tourism.
Metropolitan Touring celebrates 60 Years of Stories in the travel business!
On October 10, the new Santa Cruz II joins the company’s fleet replacing the legendary MV Santa Cruz that sailed in the Galápagos waters since 1979. On this date, the two vessels were anchored next to each other at the visitor site of Tijeretas in San Cristóbal Island. This was the day of powerful transformations, as a new era in Galápagos cruising started, and a new beginning for Metropolitan Touring as well.