Metropolitan Touring celebrates 60 years in Travel
It takes a certain type of spirit to make a real difference. It takes a certain team of people to believe in dedicating their energies to their countries.
The people behind the company led by Eduardo Proaño in the 1950s probably didn’t set out to have the impact they did. They were ambitious, to be sure. They believed in the travel industry. Through a mix of zeal, belief, dedication and toil, the company researched, created, promoted, sold and operated programmes which would open up new areas of the country to foreign visitors for the first time. It literally invented where visitors went, for how long and how: what travel in Ecuador looked like and felt like.It was the pioneer.
It wasn’t until the mid-1960s that Eduardo and his team turned their attention to the Galápagos Islands. Harnessing all of his collaborators to his and his partners’ objectives, Metropolitan Touring became the first company to offer and promote abroad organized visits to the islands. At first, these took the form of day-tours on flights from the mainland, and then, from 1969 onwards, aboard the company’s own yacht, the Lina A.
Although the Galápagos National Park had been created in 1959, organized visits to the park were rare and unregulated. In hand with the authorities, the company’s first guides set down the rules that are still in force today, designing the “Galápagos experience” with a strong emphasis on interpretation, conservation and minimizing the impact of visitors on the pristine environment.
The company grew its presence in the Galápagos over the next decades, as it consolidated its operations and upgraded its fleet with the addition of the M/V Santa Cruz (the first ship to be commissioned and built specifically for cruising the Galápagos waters) in 1979 and Yacht Isabela II in 1988.
But this pioneering spirit also saw it look to create new products on mainland Ecuador. In the 1980s, it became the first private company to offer train tours, aboard the Metropolitan Touring Express. The Amazon, too, proved a fertile region for the country’s burgeoning travel industry.
Metropolitan created the Flotel Orellana which offered travellers a truly unique way of discovering the wonders of the Amazon rainforest. And in the capital, Eduardo Proaño and others invested in the Hotel Colón, which would later become the flagship hotel of the Hilton chain in Ecuador.
With its firm belief in Ecuador’s future as a travel destination, it created the first course for guides, as well as an admissions exam for potential guides to pass. The country’s foremost and most respected guides worked for the company – many of whom still do today – and all would agree the company acts as a great schoolery area – for the entire industry.
At the turn of the century, another visionary took up the reins of Metropolitan Touring. Led by Roque Sevilla, who had just finished his term as Mayor of Quito in 2000, the Grupo Futuro reinforced the fervent belief in a travel industry-led future for the country.
The company continued its success of creating experiences with high levels of comfort, cuisine and service. It set the bar for others in the industry to follow, while building a company in which people could grow, could expand their horizons, where corporate responsibility wasn’t an add-on, but integral to everything the company did. It created and, in turn, stimulated a tourism industry in Ecuador that was and is able to compete on the world stage today and into the future.
In 2005, the former Hotel Delfín in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island was thoroughly revamped and relaunched as the Finch Bay Eco Hotel. The property has since gone on to win numerous international prizes for both hotel management and responsible operations, once again setting the standard for others to follow. The hotel also acquired one yachtfor daily tours to nearby islands: the Sea Lion.
In 2008, Metropolitan added the La Pinta Luxury Yacht to its fleet, a 48-guest ship that distils the wish lists compiled over decades by the company’s captains, guides, crew and guests into a yacht that’s intelligently- and ideally-designed for expedition cruising of the archipelago.
Many would have stopped there. But the yen for pushing back horizons and taking steps into the unknown drove the Grupo to look to the region beyond Ecuador’s borders. What if it could build on its successful formula in Ecuador in other countries in the region?
So, beginning in 2007, it acquired a tour operator in Peru, started one from scratch in Chile, partnered with another in Argentina, and in 2010, under the helm of Paulina Burbano de Lara as Executive President, created another in Colombia. These regional offices have consolidated themselves in their respective markets, offering the company’s clients a unified service experience and a trusted partner in five South American countries.
Metropolitan Touring is one of the few Ecuadorian multinationals in any sector of the economy, and certainly one of the very few in the travel industry. It’s a cause of great pride that the company has managed to achieve so much over the last decade, its growth due in great part to the people at every level of the organisation who have believed in making a difference, in leaving their mark.
With travel growing in Ecuador, the Grupo saw the potential of creating its own products on the mainland. With this in mind it acquired a historic mansion on Plaza San Francisco in Quito’s World Heritage-listed Old Town, which opened its doors following a labour-of-love-restoration as Casa Gangotena in October 2011. The hotel has gone on to win plaudits from the world’s media and praise from its guests who love its ambience of intimate sophistication.
Continuing its conservation-minded ethos, the group inaugurated Mashpi Lodge in April 2012, a stunning, contemporary and ground-breaking lodge located three hours to the northwest of Quito. The lodge is located within a breath-taking 1,300-hectare cloudforest 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.
These last endeavours aim to create unique experiences in iconic locations for our guests. While, ultimately, all our endeavours seek to build a glowing riposte to the boxed and the packaged, the humdrum and the mundane: to do things differently, to believe in making a difference.
View more stories and histories on the mini-site we created to mark and celebrate our 60th anniversary: http://onehistoryathousandinspiringstories.com