When did you open Chile Private Tours and what inspired you to do so?
Chile Private Tours was officially created in 2012, however, it existed a few years before that: I started as a private tour guide for French travelers in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Valparaiso back in 2006. The following year, I started to do wine tours and visits of Santiago. Each year, I kept adding tours to my portfolio, until I created officially the agency in 2012 and started to work with other guides in the entire country. What inspired me to do it, is that a lot of my clients told me they had a hard time to find useful information about Chile and they often asked me for advice when touring with me in Valparaiso. They even asked me to create their entire itinerary... I was happy to do so, and that's how I transitioned from a local tour guide to a travel agent, creating tailor-made itineraries for the entire country.
What do you love most about Chile Private Tours?
It was created organically, based on what our clients asked and needed, and even though we are growing, we have managed to keep it that way: each tour is different, each itinerary is unique and tailor-made, based on our clients preferences. This is what I love the most, because it makes our clients happy, and it makes it more entertaining for us to constantly create something new and special for them.
What has been the most rewarding part of opening Chile Private Tours?
Our clients being happy! We have had so many great comments and reviews from our clients for years now, that we are in the TripAdvisor Hall of Fame for our outstanding service. To me, this is the most important thing aspect of what we do: we serve people who, for the most part, work hard during the entire year; and when they are finally taking holidays, they want to relax and have a good time. This is too important to screw it up! So, when they choose us to organize their holidays, we make sure to take care of them as if they were our best friends or family.
What has been your biggest challenge and how have you overcome this?
The biggest challenge has been in late 2019, when there were heavy protests in Chile during high season and suddenly roads were blocked, airports were closed, there were protests in all major cities, making it dangerous to tour around... Right at that time, we had many clients traveling across the country and we had to find solutions for them: modifying their flights, in some cases revamping their entire itineraries, booking and cancelling hotel rooms at the last minute... It was a very stressful time but we managed to take care of all our clients in a timely fashion.
Tell us about your team (how you built the team/what you love most).
As I said before, I started on my own as a local tour guide. Now, I work with a great team of French-speaking and English-speaking in all the main tourist spots in the country. It's been a long process to put this team together, as I am quite selective when it comes to working with other people – I actually have had a few disappointments and incidents in the past. But once you have found people who have knowledge, passion, and are caring with travelers, it's a dream to work with them. And that's what I have with my team, which is composed of Chileans, French, and German guides of all ages and horizons.
What's next for Chile Private Tours?
Opening new routes and itineraries, with special and unique experiences. Here are a few things we are working on (some of them are already available, actually!):
- a couple of cultural programs where you can meet indigenous communities and share a bit of their daily lives;
- a new astronomical route, since Chile is one of the best places in the world to observe the sky and the stars;
- alternative wine tours, meeting small vineyards' owners and having some special activities like creating your own blend with them;
- going off the beaten tracks in the Atacama desert and into the wilderness in Patagonia;
- painting your own wall with professional mural painting artists in Valparaiso;
- and, last but not least, we are putting together mystical & alien tours, as Chile is know for UFO sightings, and Easter Island is considered by some to be a portal to other dimensions.
How has Tab helped Chile Private Tours?
Tab has been a very practical solution for us to accept credit card payments from all over the world and receive payment in US dollars, in a safe and easy-to-use fashion.
Why is Chile a great place to visit?
In a nutshell: Breathtaking landscapes; amazing diversity, from the driest desert in the world to the glaciers of Patagonia, from the high mountains of the Andes to the tropical ambiance of Easter Island; great wines and underrated gastronomy; the best place in the world to observe the sky; and one of the best destinations in the world for adventure tourism.
Are there any trends/changes that you've noticed in tourism?
I would say that the global trend is that people are not only looking for tours, but for experiences. In our case, we have more and more people asking us to meet the locals, have an authentic gastronomic experience, things like this. Which is great, because it means travelers want to get more involved in local culture, not only seeing the sights and taking pictures.However, following the COVID-19 pandemic, it's a bit hard to predict what the new trends will be... I do believe we will see more and more people who want to go on private tours in order to avoid the crowds – which is good for us because this is what we do!
What would your advice be for anyone thinking about starting their own tourism business?
Right now, I would advice them to wait until the world is through the COVID-19 pandemic. This is really not a good time to get started in tourism! But once this is over, I would recommend one thing: be authentic, be yourself. What I mean by that, is that if you want to offer or sell something, it has to be something you enjoy doing yourself. You are not going to sell wine tours if you are not a wine drinker, for instance. You could, but you would not be able to offer it properly because it's not something you enjoy yourself. Go with what you love, with what you are passionate about. That is, in my humble opinion, the only way to do it right.
You can find out more about Chile Private Tours on their website at chileprivatetours.com.