In many industries, like those built around cars and electronics, the final product is a composite of parts and services that come from all over the globe. In travel, the final “product” is no different. It is made up of many businesses and people who contribute to your entire trip experience.
The WHL Group works to keep the travel “product” as locally based as possible. We partner with in-country experts like tour operators who, in turn, work with local service providers like lodges, restaurants, drivers and guides.
To conclude our current “going local” theme, we asked some of our partners to share a thought about their very favourite local suppliers.
Ivan Fernandez – Guide and Local Leader of Copper Canyon, Mexico
“My favourite supplier in Mexico’s Copper Canyon is my husband, Ivan Fernandez, because he does so much for local tourism in the area. He is an excellent guide and historian, delivering unsurpassed quality and service on each trip and in-depth information about the area.
He organises the annual 13-day Silver Trail ride from Batopilas to Chihuahua across the canyons with mules. He is responsible for getting Chihuahua to recognise the Arriero (mule skinners) and to register them as a state cultural foundation. He is also an avid conservationist and has helped to establish the El Fuerte Secret Forest Project in Sinaloa that helps the community to recognise and save a section of deciduous forest there. They have a piece of land set aside to take school kids out on to show them the beauty of the area and to educate them on their surroundings. He works tirelessly to promote not only the Copper Canyon, but all of the state of Chihuahua and the country of Mexico.”
~ Yolonda Norman de Fernandez of Amigo Trails, Mexico
Bill Teel – Restaurant Owner and Cowboy of Kansas City, Missouri
“My favourite local supplier is Kansas City steak guru Bill Teel, owner of the Golden Ox Restaurant and president of the Kansas City Restaurant Association.
At 65, the Ox still serves a clientele of cattlemen and cowgirls in the old Livestock Exchange of Kansas City, Missouri. Bill greets every person with a handshake and serves up mouthwatering meat and potatoes. The Ox is my favourite place to book tour groups and visitors for great value and authentic Kansas City beef. The loyalty is well earned for this guy who treats every customer like family.”
~ Diane Montague of D.M.Montague CTA and Associates, a local travel specialist in Kansas and Missouri
Artush – Tour Guide, Interpreter and Comedian of Armenia
“When it comes to local suppliers in the tour industry in Armenia, I can note a lot of companies and people who work with us – hotels, transport companies, my colleagues. But I would like to give special attention to one of our tour leaders whose work with tourists always inspires me.
Born in Gyumri with a very good sense of humour, Artush always knows how to handle any difficult situation. He has an important and multifaceted role in our business. The way guides present and interpret things affects tourists’ perception of a place, understanding of the local culture and engagement in local activities. Guides are under a lot of pressure to make decisions on the spot and even improvise sometimes. Artush has the wonderful ability to impress the tourists from the first glance, so they feel happy with him. He wins over his groups and makes them want to come back and visit our amazing region again.”
~ Marianna Barseghyan of AdvenTour, a local travel specialist for Armenia
Doña Clementina – Organic Farmer and Warm Homestay Host in Colombia
“Doña Clementina runs a family-owned organic farm in Guasca, Colombia, which mainly focuses on growing organic produce for cancer patients. Through local support from neighbours, the family has been able to increase crop production through a sustainable farming model.
Our clients have the unique privilege to experience this authentic farm through real local interaction, which includes different farming activities such as cow milking, animal feeding and harvesting, as well as nature hikes to Chingaza National Park, home to three sublime lagoons that date back to Pre-Columbian Muisca times. But most importantly our clients have a unique chance to understand the local way of life and support this farmer’s noble cause.”
~ Nicolas Gomez of More Local, a local travel specialist in Colombia
Zana Bilal – Tour Operator and Great Boss in Medjugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Zana doesn’t micromanage and offers me an enormous amount of trust. She’s entertaining and our working relationship is fantastic. She’s the boss, but values my input. It works out perfectly. On top of that, she’s just an all-around great person. She does everything in her power to help, and she values our customers in ways I wish every company would. People before profits! It’s because when you treat your clients like they matter to you, each one individually, then they keep coming back with a smile. Zana’s been an inspiration to me and helped me understand that the most important thing about working in her travel agency is letting the guests know you care, and she really does.”
~ Niall Leacy, whl.travel local partner in Medjugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Alejandra and Fernando – Galapagos Islands Hotel Owners and Recyclers
“My favourite local suppliers are Alejandra and Fernando, the owners of Pimampiro Hosteria, a lovely little hotel located on the island of San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. Fernando, an ex-naval officer, and his wife Alejandra built the hotel in 2007 after Fernando completed his stint as captain of the island’s port, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. The couple are wonderful hosts to the many visitors to their popular hotel, always going out of their way to make travellers feel at home.
What makes them really special is their commitment to caring for the environment. They are passionate about recycling, and run an extensive recycling program at the hotel. They are so committed to the conservation of natural resources – thereby helping to preserve the islands – that in 2010 they were honoured with the award for Best Management of Solid Residuals in San Cristobal.”
~ Steve Nomchong, whl.travel local connection in theGalapagos Islands
Gela Burduli – Georgian Ski Ldoge Owner and Storyteller
“Our favourite hotel owner and local partner is Gela Burduli. He owns Hotel Shamo in the Gudauri Ski Resort of Georgia. Gela is a wonderful person, with a rich experience in the tourism sector and excellent organisational skills. The first and most visible thing that distinguishes him is the wonderful feedback he gets at the end of every tour. The travellers are amazed by his hospitality. No matter how busy he is, Gela always welcomes travellers at his hotel’s doorway with a wide smile and a firm handshake. He is fond of guests and loves to serve them his authentic wine.
Speaking English, German and Russian, Gela is the toast master in the evenings, telling the travellers about local traditions, stories and legends. The warm atmosphere in this family-run hotel makes travellers feel at home. Gela and his wife Manana always make sure their guests leave Hotel Shamo happy and satisfied. Manana cooks delicious meals, using the organic food bought in the nearby mountainous villages. Gela Burduli is the kind of person who knows the power of a good impression and the long-lasting effect on travellers. This is the spirit that is prompting Gela to do so much for his guests.”
~ Ia Kverghelidze, the former whl.travel local partner in Tbilisi and Caucasus Mountains, Georgia
Ruben Rueda – Bartender to the Stars in Hollywood, California
“A can’t-miss fixture at Musso and Frank, Ruben Rueda has been on staff for 45 years at this ‘Oldest Restaurant in Hollywood.’ Sit at the south end of the bar in the ‘New Room’ and you will most likely be served by this gentle giant and bartender to the stars. With past clients like Bing Crosby, Steve McQueen and Charles Bukowski, Ruben has been a witness to Hollywood history – both good and bad – and knows how to mix a drink for any occasion. Strong, classic drinks are the tradition at Musso’s, including gin martinis stirred, not shaken (shaking makes the drink watery), cosmopolitans and Manhattans. If you want to try something different, ask for a Mary Pickford (sweet like the actress) or Ruben’s specialty creation, Picon Punch.
Dressed in red coats and bow ties, the bartenders and servers at Musso’s exude a charm and elegance unlike any other in Los Angeles. Their decades of experience, old-style class and gracious service have led some fans to claim Musso and Frank’s as one of the greatest restaurants in the world. Experience Musso’s, Ruben and a martini on our Historic Hollywood: Stars & Bars tour!”
~ Summer Davis, Los Angeles Urban Adventures
Zita Martel – Tour Operator and Long-Boat Racer, Samoa
“My favourite local personality is Vaimasenu’u Zita Martel. She’s the managing director of our company, a locally based tour operator in Samoa. Zita (Vaimasenu’u is her chiefly title name in Samoa) is quite famous here for her contribution to the traditional sport of Fautasi, or long-boat racing. This sport is traditionally for men, and our boss was the first woman ever to give it a go. On top of this, she always wins! Zita is a real inspiration to our team here in the office (men and women), and we’ve all learned that if you have a passion for something, then you should give it your absolute best. You never know what you can achieve!
Zita also runs the best local tours on the island for visitors, incentive groups and schools, offering them a real and authentically Samoan experience. Recently the program about Pacific Island issues, Tagata Pasefika, did a feature on her as a part of their ‘Inspiring Islanders’ series.”
~ Talise Samuelu, Samoa Urban Adventures