My official CV/resumé >>
Another take on 'my-life-in-800-words >>
I was born in London in 1972, but was irreversibly affected by watching too many episodes of the cult British children's TV programme Mr Benn when I was little. I've since spent most of my adult life trying to emulate Mr Benn's ability to visit the costume shop down the road, walk through the back door, and find myself in the midst of a foreign adventure.
I grew up in West London. I believe I was perhaps born a latino in a previous life — i.e. I'm always late and I like hammocks — but I attended a French lycée in London for my entire schooling. So now I reckon I'm just plain confused.
Following a Degree in French and Spanish at Leeds University and a Master's Degree in Latin American Studies from London University's Institute of Latin American Studies (now Institute for the Study of the Americas), I began my journalism career while living and working in Venezuela in 1996. I initially went to the country chasing a French girlfriend. But instead fell head over heels for the unique Gran Sabana region in the southeast.
While living there, I wrote for an online news site, VHeadline, as well as for the fledgling Environment News Service, which is still going strong today.
In early 1999, I landed the commission to write the first edition of the Traveler's Venezuela Companion. I spent eight months researching it and took nearly a year to complete it. I made very little money, but came away a better writer, with a ton of experience and a 1980 Toyota Land Cruiser. The Traveler's Venezuela Companion won the Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Guidebook 2002.
I worked on a book project in Venezuela for several years. The travel book is/was about my cherished region of the Gran Sabana, tentatively titled Travels in the Lost World. For more on that go here.
I went on to work on two more Traveler's Companion guidebooks, published by America's largest independent travel publisher, The Globe Pequot Press. In 2001, I updated the Traveler's Ecuador Companion and then revamped and overhauled the never-published Traveler's Russia Companion.
I have also worked on various Footprint Handbooks, publishers of the biblical South American Handbook, as well as for Fodor's, Dorling Kindersley, Insight Guides, Intelliguides and the Starservice hotel reviews.
As a writer and photographer, my work has been published in the UK, US and in Latin America - titles include Geographical, BBC Wildlife, The Independent on Sunday, Wanderlust, Global, Adventure Travel, Interval World, New Law Journal and thisistravel.co.uk (the Evening Standard and Daily Mail travel site).
Conversely to what many people think, I haven't travelled that widely. I've never been to Africa, for instance, nor Australasia or South-East Asia. I only made it to Ireland in 2001. This said, you can't get much wider than Russia.
I was Chief Travel Writer for the Caracas Daily Journal from 1999 to 2001, where I acquired an unofficial (and hilarious) fan club, and was Contributing Editor of South American Explorer magazine in the US from 2000 to 2005 (I am also now a board member at the clubhouse in Quito). Both these publications were willing to adopt and send forth various 'brats of my brain' which no-one else would, so I owe them a thank you here.
As an early-adopter of the web, I've always enjoyed writing for the net. Over the years I distributed articles liberally over such sites as the great planeta.com, bootsnall.com and 2camels.com. I was a founding member of guidebookwriters.com, and was Contributing Editor of the excellent Travel Intelligence and Perceptive Travel.
I designed the pages you see before you now, as well as various other ventures, such as Sarah-Darling.com, BirdVenezuela.com, Jo's Place, VenezuelaVoyage, Ecuadorial and TheLostWorld. Although I enjoy creating websites, I find HTML and Flash to be pernickety and not much fun. I'm much more interested in the big picture of sites - whether editorial or visual - and would rather leave the programing to people far better at it than me... like my friend Manuel.
I started making videos in late 2002; a good avenue for my skills. I sold various short promotional films of travel destinations in South America, including Angel Falls, the Inca Trail and the Galapagos Islands. To view some examples, see my YouTube channel.
In 2003, I worked as the associate producer in Ecuador for a three-part programme for the BBC, PBS and CBC, broadcast in late 2004 as 'Extreme Oil' and 'Oil: The World Over a Barrel.'
Since 2003 I have been based in Quito, Ecuador, with my wife and three young children.
I worked as International Media Relations Officer and then as Head of Strategic Marketing and Communication for the Quito Visitors' Bureau from 2007 to mid-2010. I very much enjoyed my role promoting my adopted city, putting my experience of travel and guidebook writing, as well as web creation, video and PR, into good practice. I was fortunate to work with a great group of people (including my future partner on Ñan magazine (see below), Cristina Guerrero), with whom we achieved much with very little.
Over the years in Ecuador, I have written copy for various tourism industry clients, occacionally contributing to Ecuadorian magazines, or writing and editing books published in Ecuador. Until about 2010, I continued to write occacional articles and work on the odd guidebook. See the NEWS section or WORDS section for more.
One of those clients was the tour operator, Metropolitan Touring. In May 2010, I accepted a position in their Quito offices as Head of Communication. I enjoyed this new role and its challenges. The company has expanded to open offices in Peru, Chile, Argentina and Colombia since 2008, so it's an exciting place to be, at the headquarters of a pan-South American company. The company's holding group opened two exciting new hotels during my time there: Casa Gangotena, a beautiful restored mansion in the heart of the Old Town, and Mashpi Lodge, a stunningly-contemporary glass cocoon in the clouds, northwest of Quito. Both fantastic projects to be involved with.
My focus was on communication with our travel trade partners and end-consumers, supporting our marketing efforts, being part of the team developing the company's digital strategy (web, apps, social media, etc.), and expanding our video ouput.
Strange as it may seem on paper, I am today the Deputy Minister of Tourism of Ecuador. The Ministry is divided into two, with one branch dealing with 'destination management' (effectively the 'supply' side), and the other 'promotion' (effectively 'demand'). I began this new challenge in November 2014. It can be slightly surreal, as a foreigner, to be entrusted with this role as an 'authority' within the Ecuadorian government. But most of the time, it's amazing, and something I'm immensely proud of.
I lead a team of around 60. Many of them have excellent experience in the private sector and profound knowledge of the industry. The Viceministry is divided into three Undersecretariats: Promotion (focused on the end-consumer); Trade; and Investment. We are led by the very able Sandra Naranjo, a young Minister who returned from her time at the John F. Kennedy School of Government (HKS) at Harvard to this role. She worked very closely with President Rafael Correa for six years.
We have been working hard on a wide range of projects, including a strong campaign focused on improving the quality of services and, essentially, making quality the blueprint of everything to do with the industry.
On my side, we have been rolling out the new international promotional campaign for Ecuador, "Feel Again" as well as various national campaings; seeking greater air and maritime connectivity; making inroads into the world of hotel and tourism investment; improving our digital presence and communication; and strengthening our ties with the local and international travel trade through our offices around the world.
We have great challenges to overcome, but I'm privileged to be part of a talented team 100% committed to making tourism one of Ecuador's futures.
Dom on the phone(s) on a recent TV production, chasing whales off the coast