Metropolitan Touring Celebrates 65 Years of Experience in the Tourism Industry!
It takes a certain kind of spirit to make a real difference and it takes a certain team of people to change the image of an entire country. Today, Metropolitan Touring celebrates the combination of both of these elements and what it has meant for Ecuador.
When Metropolitan Touring was founded on March 15, 1953, Ecuador was just beginning to wake up to the idea of international tourism. In light of this awakening, a group of young and visionary entrepreneurs behind the creation of Metropolitan Touring, led by Eduardo Proaño, were determined to get the ball rolling when it came to this relatively untapped market in the country of Ecuador.
But they never knew how far it would take them.
1953 – 1967: Setting the Bar & A Vision For A Better Tomorrow
Proaño’s team strongly believed in the travel industry. Day and night, Metropolitan Touring worked with the Ecuadorian government to create the necessary conditions and policies that would help foster international tourism. The team became the voice of hope and optimism for tourism, highlighting the fact that it would become a significant generator of income and employment within Ecuador, benefiting the Ecuadorian population. Not to mention, the country’s image would finally be projected out into the world and tourism would serve as a spotlight for the fantastic natural and cultural beauty inherent to the nation.
Following this, Metropolitan Touring became a pioneer of national tours. The company researched, created, promoted, sold and began handling itineraries that opened up new areas of the country to foreign visitors for the very first time. The company’s initiative in this area would eventually come to define the look and feel of travel inside Ecuador for the industry as a whole.
1968 – 1974: Eyes On The Enchanted Prize
It wasn’t until the late-1960s that Eduardo and his team turned their attention to the Galapagos Islands. Harnessing the collective energy of its team and all its collaborators, Metropolitan Touring became the first company to offer and promote organized visits to the islands to the international world. At first, these took the form of day-tours with flights from the mainland; but then, from 1969 until the early 80’s, they would all occur aboard the company’s own yacht – the Lina A.
Although the Galapagos Islands became a designated National Park in 1959, organized visits to the park were pretty rare and unregulated. Working with the authorities, Metropolitan Touring’s first group of guides took the initiative of establishing rules and regulations (that are still in force today) for the archipelago, defining the “Galapagos experience” as one with a strong emphasis on conservation and minimizing the environmental impact of human visitors.
The creation of these rules and regulations would eventually serve as a keystone for what we nowadays regard as ecotourism in the Galapagos. The repercussions of this are palpable: after nearly 50 years, the vast majority of the visitor sites and the natural conditions of the islands have, to a large extent, remained intact and safe from harm.
1974 – 2000: The Sky’s the Limit
The company grew its presence in the Galapagos over the next couple of decades, consolidating its operations and upgrading its fleet with the addition of the M/V Santa Cruz (the first ship to be commissioned and built specifically for cruising the Galapagos waters) in 1979 and the Yacht Isabela II in 1988.
This pioneering spirit on the islands eventually sought to balance itself on the mainland in Ecuador. In the 1980s, Metropolitan Touring became the first private company to offer train tours aboard the Metropolitan Touring Chiva Express.
With its firm belief in Ecuador’s future as an international travel destination, it created the first ever national Metropolitan Touring School for Guides. Many of the country’s most recognized tourism and travel professionals have graduated from here, a large number of which continue to work for the company to this very day. There are many who agree that the company acts as a great educational cornerstone for the entire tourism industry in Ecuador.
2000 – 2010: Meet The New Boss (and Countries)
At the turn of the century, Metropolitan Touring was handed over to a new visionary. Roque Sevilla, who had just finished his term as Mayor of Quito in 2000, took the reins with Grupo Futuro (a holding company) and injected an equally passionate belief (with respect to tourism) into Metropolitan Touring.
Following the change in ownership, the company held fast to creating experiences that came with high levels of comfort, cuisine and service. Ultimately, this would set the bar for others in the industry to follow while simultaneously building a company that allowed its employees to grow and expand their horizons. Corporate responsibility was no longer an add-on, but an integral part of everything the company did.
In 2005, the former Hotel Delfín in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island was acquired and thoroughly revamped and relaunched as the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel. The property has since gone on to win numerous international prizes as well as become a member of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World for both hotel management and responsible operations, once again setting the standard for others to follow. The hotel also acquired a yacht for daily tours to nearby islands.
Beginning in 2007, under the direction of Paulina Burbano de Lara (who would later become Executive President of Metropolitan Touring in 2010), the company expanded its frontiers and became the first tourism company in Ecuador to go multinational. Today, the company has offices and operations in Ecuador and Galapagos, Colombia and Peru, as well as a dedicated sales office in London, England.
In 2008, Metropolitan expanded its fleet with Yacht La Pinta, a 48-guest ship that manifests the wish list (compiled over decades by the company’s captains, guides, crew and guests) with a yacht that’s intelligently and ideally designed for expedition cruising throughout the archipelago.
2010 – Present Day: We’ve Only Just Begun
Metropolitan Touring is one of few Ecuadorian multinationals today. A source of great pride for the company is that it’s managed to achieve so much over the last decade, thanks in great part to the people at every level of the organisation who have believed in making a difference and leaving their mark.
With travel growing in Ecuador, Grupo Futuro saw the potential of creating its own products on the mainland. With this in mind, it acquired a historic mansion on the edge of Quito’s Plaza San Francisco (located in the World Heritage-listed Old Town), which opened its doors as Casa Gangotena following a labour-of-love-restoration in October 2011. The hotel has gone on to win awards and garner praise from the world’s media and it’s guests, who love its ambience of intimate sophistication.
Continuing its conservation-minded ethos, in the April 2012, the group inaugurated Mashpi Lodge: a stunning, contemporary and ground-breaking lodge located three hours northwest of Quito. The lodge is located within a breathtaking 1,300-hectare cloud forest reserve, brimming with birds and biodiversity. An integral part of the hotel project is enabling the preservation of this reserve while generating jobs and opportunities for the surrounding population, which in turn has made it an accolade of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World.
On 10th October 2015, the Santa Cruz II took up the baton from its legendary predecessor, the M/V Santa Cruz, and brought with it a chic new way to explore the wonders of the Galapagos Islands in style and comfort.
These last endeavours aim to create unique experiences in iconic locations for our guests. Metropolitan Touring celebrates the fact that we seek to innovate and make a difference throughout the country of Ecuador, and now — a considerable part of South America.
You can view more stories and histories on the mini-site we created to mark and celebrate our 60th anniversary at: http://onehistoryathousandinspiringstories.com
With parents that worked for the U.S. Foreign Service up until he graduated from high school, Chris was raised to have the heart of a nomad throughout his life. He has resided in Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia, Panama, and Ecuador throughout his years, and just recently spent the past four up in Canada finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy & English at the University of British Columbia. He is now devoted to writing about all things related to travel in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia.