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, faith, 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 in what way. Before this, no one knew what travel in Ecuador looked and felt like. Our company was the pioneer.
It wasn’t until the mid-1960s that Eduardo and his team turned their attention to the Galapagos Islands. Harnessing all of his collaborators to his and his partners’ objectives, Metropolitan Touring became the first company to offer and promote organized visits to the islands by people from around the world. 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 Galapagos National Park had been created in 1959, organized visits to the park were rare and unregulated. Together with the authorities, the company’s first guides set down the rules that are still in force today, designing the “Galapagos experience” with a strong emphasis on interpretation and conservation and ensuring a minimal impact of visitors on the pristine environment.
The company grew its presence in the Galapagos 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 Galapagos waters) in 1979 and Yacht Isabela II in 1988. But this pioneering spirit also saw it look to create new products on the mainland. 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. The country’s foremost guides worked – and often continue to work – for the company –and all would agree that Metropolitan Touring has served as a great school – in every area – for the entire industry.
At the turn of the century, another visionary took up the reins of Metropolitan Touring. Roque Sevilla, who had just finished his term as Mayor of Quito in 2000, purchased the company through his Grupo Futuro, thus cementing in practice his 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 holding group purchased the former Hotel Delfín in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island and thoroughly revamped it before relaunching 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 offers numerous activities that are available only on land-based Galapagos excursions and a central location that makes it the perfect base for reaching other islands, enjoying Santa Cruz’ many interesting sites or setting out to navigate on carefully designed itineraries on our own yacht. In order to expand our cruise offerings, in 2008, Metropolitan added another vessel to its fleet: Yacht La Pinta, a 48-guest ship designed to provide an upscale, sophisticated space 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 Grupo Futuro to look to the region beyond Ecuador’s borders. So, beginning in 2007, it acquired a tour operator in Peru, which has now shown significant growth and solid operations, as has the Colombian office, founded in 2010, both under the helm of Paulina Burbano de Lara as Executive President . These regional offices offer the company’s clients a unified service experience and a trusted partner in the Andean region and support guests with other services around South America. 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.
With travel growing in Ecuador, the holding group 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 old town, the first city capital to be named a World Cultural Heritage site. The hotel opened its doors in October 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, in April 2012 the group inaugurated Mashpi Lodge, a stunning, contemporary and ground-breaking lodge that represents the undiscovered natural side of Quito, and is located within a breath-taking 1,300-hectare cloudforest reserve, brimming with birds and biodiversity. An integral part of the lodge project is enabling the preservation of this reserve while generating jobs and opportunities for the surrounding population.
Today, our group proudly encompasses a fleet of options that we own and operate so that our guests can make the most of a visit to Galapagos (Santa Cruz II, Yacht Isabela II, Yacht La Pinta and the Finch Bay Eco Hotel) and to Quito (Casa Gangotena and Mashpi Lodge). We also offer destination management services to provide top expertise for your journey through Ecuador, Colombia and Peru. We maintain the highest quality standards at all of our incredible destinations and endeavour always to create unique experiences in iconic locations for our guests. It’s a cause of great pride that the company has managed to achieve so much over the last decade, and its growth is due in great part to the dedicated, selfless work of the top quality people at every level of the organisation who have believed in making a difference, in leaving their mark.