» Strange as it may seem on paper, I am 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 an amazing, rollercoaster of a ride, and one which 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.
>> I was the Head of Communication at the South American tour operator Metropolitan Touring, a position which I took up in May 2010. Metropolitan is headquartered in Quito, and has grown from being the pioneering company to offer cruises in the Galapagos Islands in the 1960s to become a regional player, with offices in Peru, Chile, Argentina and Colombia.
The work suited my interests, knowledge and experience perfectly, since I was involved in developing the company's communication strategies, whether through our newsletters to the trade, blogs, image galleries, websites or our videos, as well as working very closely with the Marketing team on all aspects of our promotional efforts (stands, materials, B2B site, etc.).
In 2012, the holding group behind Metropolitan Touring opened the (now) award-winning luxury hotel in Quito, Casa Gangotena. In 2013, it opened the stunningly-contemporary cloudforest lodge Mashpi, today a National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World. I was involved in the media and PR work on both projects and am very proud of the results we achieved through our offices in New York, London and Frankfurt. We got some spectacular articles in some of the world's most prestigious media.
Press trips were key to this media buzz generation. In 2014, we ran some 50 trips in all, while in 2013, around 40. These entailed a huge amount of preparation and detail, but provided excellent return-on-investment.
While at Metropolitan, I created and directed the Audiovisual department, producing a range of videos, from Christmas greetings to promotional videos for the company's Galapagos products, Casa Gangotena and Mashpi Lodge. Most of these can be found here.
From early 2007, I worked first as the International Media Relations Officer for the Quito Visitors' Bureau, then as Head of Communication in 2008, and then Head of Strategic Marketing and Communication in 2009 until I left in May 2010. I had worked for the organisation since 2004, editing their website and the monthly newsletter in English.
I had an extemely busy time and it was a hugely rewarding experience working for the benefit of my adopted city and its two million inhabitants. Although our budgets were small and our team pretty miniscule, we achieved a lot, earning the respect of the travel industry both in Ecuador and abroad.
I believe we contributed a great deal towards Quito gaining a place on the tourism and media map. For example, the city made the New York Times Travel "Places to Go in 2008" in December - a great seal of approval from a world authority.
I worked in conjunction with the Bureau's representation companies in the UK and in Germany, copywriting for both advertorial and advertising, working on online seminars, attending trade and consumer shows, and liaising with journalists.
I worked on various Bureau promotional projects in the travel industry in the United States and Canada, including a roadshow titled 'Meet Ecuador' (2007, 2008 and 2009), and the follow-pon 'See Ecuador' in 2008 and 2009 (see some photos here). I was responsible for putting together the presentations on Ecuador given by Pancho Dousdebes. All the events were regarded as great successes.
I worked with my colleagues on dozens of press trips from all corners of the world, including Travel Channel's 'Passport to Latin America with Samantha Brown' in 2007 and Travel Channel UK's programme on Ecuador of 2009. Quito also got coverage in CNN.com and MSN Latino, as well as USA Today, New York Times, The Guardian, Enorm, Deutche Zeitung, and many, many more titles.
From 10th to 12th September 2008, Quito and Ecuador hosted the continent's most important travel industry event, Travel Mart Latin America.
The event itself took place over 11 and 12th in the beautifully decorated Centro de Exposiciones in modern Quito, although the city invited participants to spend an extra night for free on the 9th, and organised a 'Quito Special Day' on the 10th (see here for more on that).
In order to entice more foreign 'buyers' to get to know Ecuador, the Organising Committee put together a website for special pre- and post-tours offered by Ecuadorian tour operators participating in the event. I led the creative team for that project and put together the texts for the website - one I'm pretty proud of.
Apart from the business-side of Travel Mart going extremely well - with a record number of appointments and attendees - many people rated this year's event the best ever. There were huge, choreographed social events in the city for both the Opening and Closing Reception. The opening ceremony in the Old Town alone involved over 300 artists!
I was in charge of the Press and Public Relations sub-committee - there were 13 sub-committees in all (!). We organised an international press group 20-strong over two weeks in all, including a producer from Travel Channel International and BBC World's 'Fast Track' programme.
We also generated a lot of press in Ecuador and firmly got the message across about the importance of the event to the tourist industry, and the industry's importance to the country's economy.
President Rafael Correa and Mayor Paco Moncayo both gave good speeches at the Inauguration Ceremony, at which I was honoured to be master of ceremonies (> right).
Find out more about Travel Mart madness here.
I put a lot of energy and thought into the city's promotional website. We restructured and reworked the whole thing in 2007, triplicating the content and hopefully making it a) far more easy to find information, and b) far more inspirational. The new site went live in September 2007. It soon ranked at the top of Google for many search terms and when I left in May 2010, was registering 40,000 unique visitors a month.
I believe the team I headed up made the site one of the best 'official' websites worldwide, with great navigation, search capabilities and a degree of interactivity not usually found on such websites.
> Publishing update:
In 2012, I co-founded and edited a new travel magazine about Ecuador, Ñan.
Ñan is a large-format, full-colour bilingual travel magazine published five times a year. We aim to inspire and inform a new generation of travellers about the riches of this small yet megadiverse South America country.
Every issue of Ñan focuses on just one route or region, allowing us to 'scratch the surface' of its attractions, routes, cultures, people, music, gastronomy, wildlife and curiosities.
Over time, we are building up a fresh, insightful, unparalleled and collectable vision of the country. Every issue comes with a pull out and foldable map with key information and references for travellers to take on the road and explore.
Ñan is available at all good bookshops and the Supermaxi chain of supermarkets in Ecuador, as well as many hotels and information centres in the main cities. It also travels to key travel trade events.
Ñan is now available on the iTunes store to download for iPad so that international readers can also enjoy its contents and plan their trip to Ecuador!
Follow Ñan on Facebook / Instagram / Twitter
>» Insight Guides: Latest edition of their Ecuador guide which I worked on.
» Bloom, a book by Ecuadorian photographer Anamaría Chediak on the flowers and flower farms of Ecuador, for which I wrote the texts for 18 farms as well as the introduction and an article about the industry.
» Spirit of the Huaorani, text editing for Pete Oxford's new book on the Huaorani Indians of Ecuador's Amazon,
» Plumas, Photographer Murray Cooper's book on Ecuadorian birds, which I edited sections of.