And breathe. Yes, WTM – celebrating its 40th birthday this year – is over for another year. My feet have only just recovered from last week, and I have a myriad of follow-ups, but right now, I want to thank all those of you who endured London Transport to meet with me and my wonderful colleagues from Blumar in Brazil and Travel Excellence in Costa Rica.
I’m also in the mood for sharing my WTM annoyances with you. Plus, a few of the many joys. I’d love to hear about yours, should you feel so inclined!
The 5 most annoying things about WTM:
1. The noise!
It all starts with the TFL staff announcements at Canning Town and then Mariachi bands making a racket while you’re trying to have a meeting!
2. Canning Town Station, The DLR and The Jubilee Line
I have great empathy for people who have to endure this on a regular basis.
3. People like me!
Stopping you for a “quick chat” while you’re late and dashing to your next appointment.
4. Name/face recognition failure
Thank goodness for name badges!
5. Wardrobe angst
Three whole days of business attire. How do those Latinos manage to look so good all the time?
And the more positive aspects:
1. The Emirates Airline cable car
Hallelujah – Canning Town can be avoided. What a pleasure it was to soar across the Thames with birds eye views of the O2 and beyond.
Did you try dreamy Costa Rican coffee? Oh yes – this kept me alert and revived countless flagging souls throughout the 3-day show. And what about the Brazilian Caipirinhas? Saúde!
3. Strictly WTM
Vying for top place on the leader-board were Brazil and Costa Rica, each presenting a superb showcase of folk dancing displays that transported the eager audience to places far removed from E16!
4. My clients!
It is such a pleasure for me to look after Team Blumar (Paula & Carolina) and Team Travel Excellence (Carlos, Guido and Cynthia) while they’re here in London. Every year, they come to WTM brimming with exciting new products and ideas, but it’s their natural warmth that really makes my heart sing. Their dedication and professionalism shine through every meeting right through from the very first one on Monday morning until the final slot on Wednesday afternoon.
Of course! Where would we be without you and your clients? This is what WTM is all about – I get to introduce you to my clients and in turn, they get to know what you and your clients are looking for, so they can really focus on delivering you the products needed for your clients.
I have many, many more WTM joys I could regale you with but to sum up, it was fantastic to meet up with each and every one of you who came. I truly hope your meetings with Paula & Carolina from Blumar, and Carlos, Guido and Cynthia from Travel Excellence have strengthened the bonds you already have. Or, will bring about future working relationships, and as always, if there’s anything I can do help with your sales to Latin America, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’m off to Costa Rica for a dose of Pura Vida hospitality and to experience a few of the many new properties.
America is a huge region with many different terrains and climates. Typically,
the most popular time to visit is from December to March but each of the four
countries I represent can be enjoyed all year round. Below is a guide to help
you encourage clients to consider travelling during off-peak times.
you’re selling Patagonia, The Pantanal or trips to see turtles in Costa Rica,
there are good reasons and many benefits to visit these regions in low season.
packed with fantastic off-Peak and Shoulder season options to tempt your
clients to break away from the herd and travel when it’s quieter. You’ll almost
certainly be flying your clients around Argentina – seat availability on the
planes is far less of an issue out of season, and your clients should be able
to get their first choice of hotel and room type, as well as spending far less
time getting from A to B as the roads are quieter.
Have you ever been to Buenos Aires in January or February? Well, I have and it’s h-o-t. And sooooo humid. With temperatures in the city rising to the high 30’s, an off-Peak visit is a much more attractive proposition for your clients who want to go shopping and sightseeing. Spring is a particularly beautiful time in this city of tree-lined streets.
People always think they have to go to Patagonia between December and March. Well, they don’t! Argentine Patagonia is drop-dead gorgeous in April when the reds and yellows of autumn stand out against perfectly deep blue skies. Equally, October heralds the arrival of spring when the days start to get a little longer, and the landscape gives up its wintry monochrome in favour of some springtime flora. April and October are ideal for hiking the trails around El Chalten – in the summer, these trails can be busy with tourists from all over the world but if your clients can travel off-Peak, they will be rewarded handsomely with peace and quiet and enjoy the superb views from the trails they’ll pretty much have to themselves.
If you have clients who are up for a mid-winter visit to Patagonia, this is totally doable with the correct planning. Services are reduced and some properties do close down for the season but there are still a fair number that operate year-round and greet their winter visitors with welcoming arms.
Seriously, these seasonal destinations benefit enormously from out of season tourism so if your clients make the effort to get down to the El Calafate area in winter, their hosts will go overboard to make their stay as comfortable as possible.
Further north, Salta and its environs are lovely year-round but the January to March rainy season up in the Northwest can severely disrupt road travel and is another good reason to urge your clients to visit Argentina outside of the January and February peak. It’s also worth remembering that Mendoza is also a year-round destination but the wine harvest that takes place in late February/March brings in lots of visitors. Best avoided – unless, of course, it’s your clients’ whole reason for going!
And finally Iguazu and the Northeast. I visited this region in February 2019. Yes, it was hot. V-e-r-y hot. In an ideal world, I may not have chosen to have gone when it was sooo hot. But you know what? I still had a fantastic time!
Rio is exceptionally exciting and busy over New Year and during Carnival. If your clients are not party animals, you’ll be doing them a massive favour by suggesting they visit Rio between March and mid-June, or between mid-September and mid-December. You’ll almost certainly be able to secure them their preferred hotel and room type, and nab a booking for them at one of the best tables at that amazing restaurant they’ve heard all about…
But it’s not just Rio that comes into its own out of season.
The chances are your clients will be heading to the Pantanal or the Amazon.
Think about it – all National Parks are places of outstanding natural beauty
but it’s fair to say that the experience might be spoilt if there are lots of
other tourists around. If your clients were given the choice, wouldn’t they
prefer to visit a pristine waterfall when they’re likely to get the place
practically to themselves? Or enjoy the serenity of a canoe ride along a brackish
waterway in solitary splendour? All this is possible if they travel off-Peak.
Here’s a detailed rundown of what happens in the Pantanal
and Amazon regions during the different seasons. Please keep in mind that this
guide is not definitive – there are some crazy weather patterns out there that
no one can predict. All the more reason to travel off-Peak in my opinion!
honest, there’s never a bad time to go to the Pantanal. The experience is
outstanding any time of the year. It’s what your clients want to see and do
that will dictate when they should go. As a rule of thumb though, the rainy
season usually runs from December to March and it’s drier between May and
November, but here’s a more detailed description of what goes on in the Pantanal
throughout the year
October to December – Transition from Dry to Wet Season (aka Enchente)
Smaller waterways and lakes fill up with rainfall that’s fallen in the surrounding mountains and flows into the Pantanal basin.
There’s a concentration of small birds at this time.
Beautiful sunsets are reflected in these new bodies of water.
The Pantaneiros move their cattle to higher ground.
January to March – Wet Season
60 to 78% of the Pantanal is submerged with 20 to 40cm of water during the wet season.
Vegetation is at its peak.
Migratory birds arrive from as far as Canada and USA, flying over 20,000 km (12500 mi), attracted by the abundance of fish.
Boat tours explore the flooded forest.
Daily showers and high temperatures reaching 33°C (91°F) and 80% humidity.
April to June
– Transition from Wet to Dry Season (aka Vazante)
Rain stops, water flows down to the Paraguay and Cuiaba rivers, and out
of the basin.
There’s a switch in the birdlife – the Northern hemisphere birds are
gone, but newcomers arrive from as far as Antarctica and Patagonia.
Nights are cooler and days are drier.
Fish trapped in the lakes are a feast for other animals.
The Pantaneiros bring cattle back to low lands.
July to September
– Dry Season
The rivers are much drier.
Your clients will get to see the majestic Ipe trees blossoming in
beautiful shades of pink, lilac and yellow.
This is the best season for watching reptiles and mammals roaming the
The days and nights are much cooler, reaching 16°C (60°F) at night.
The Amazon is beautiful in any season, but activities can be quite different depending on the water level of the rivers. The rains are heaviest between the months of January through March. Even though it does rain more this time of year, it is still a good time to travel. The rain tends to be in the middle of the day or at night. In the rainy season, there are many flowers and the fruits attract birds and monkeys. From July to November the river levels start to go down, getting about 5cm lower every day.
Carolina from Blumar travelled with her family in July 2019. They enjoyed blue sky on the entire trip. Not a single drop of rain. However, they were only able to enjoy one beach day as the water levels were still very high and the beaches hadn’t yet reappeared. (The best time for swimming stops is from October to January). During the
wet season –
December to June – the
flooded forest can be explored by canoe.
– the beginning of the Wet Season.
The Andean rains and melt water bring about a considerable rise in the river levels.
– May Wet Season (Flooding)
Trees burst into bloom with new flowers and fruits.
Mating season: the jungle comes alive with the noisy courtship of the animals.
Overnight temperatures drop in April, and the almost-daily showers are short and sharp.
Humidity is high but your clients will enjoy the colourful sunsets that come with it.
The sunrise is spectacular too as it breaks through the morning fog that forms on the jungle canopy.
All that noisy mating a few months earlier means babies! This is when the mammals produce their young.
Add to that the daytime warmth and the myriad of butterflies at this time of year, and you’ll see why this is the best time for your clients to do boat tours along the tributaries into the flooded forests.
August Dry Season (Flood Peak)
In June, the Amazon reaches its peak (between 10 to 14 meters) and rainfall starts to dwindle.
By August, the river levels are rapidly subsiding. This is the time of year your clients should visit the Amazon if they’re interested in interacting with people of the riverside communities to get a feel for how they adjust to these seasonal variations, and to make the most of a canoe tour through the flooded forests to get up close to the canopy.
– October Dry Season (Ebb Peak)
September heralds the formation of sand banks and beaches where the wet
season river used to be
Larger animals like Capybara can be spotted as they head for the water.
Birds gorge themselves on fish that get trapped in the lagoons and are
joined by birds that migrate from North America.
Forest hikes become accessible during this period.
To get a
feel for all the Off-Peak and Shoulder season deals in Brazil, please head over
to the ‘Special Offers’ page in the Client area on Blumar’s website.
You can go
to Patagonia in winter and have an amazing time! Yes, it’s true! Patagonia is
an absolute peach of a winter destination.
So, what goes on in Patagonia in winter? Well, for one
thing, Patagonia enjoys a break from the constant wild and windy weather that
epitomises the far south. True – a winter storm or two might add to the drama
and stir things up a bit but on the whole, Patagonia becomes all calm and
One of the best aspects of travelling in this region during
the winter is the coziness – (dare I say ‘hygge’?) of the accommodation. When
it’s particularly nippy outside, who doesn’t like arriving somewhere with a
roaring fire and the aroma of a tasty dinner wafting through from the kitchen?
Winter is the perfect excuse for tucking in to hearty meals and your clients
won’t be disappointed.
Make sure your clients have all the gear – temperatures can plunge to an extreme of -10 °C so the right clothing is a necessity: advise them to dress in layers. They’ll need a down jacket, gloves, a decent hat and plenty of socks. It goes without saying that your clients need to be made aware that winter travel needs to be planned with more care than at other times of year as the days are shorter and there are fewer services to work with. You may have to slow it all down a bit and do a bit of juggling but that’s where Southbound come into their own – they know which lodges are open, which flights and buses are scheduled. Plus, if a winter storm does come along and blankets your beautifully-crafted itinerary in snow and ice, the Southbound team are nearby and will swing into action (yes, they’ve done it before) to provide the best possible solution.
As I mentioned earlier, Team Southbound donned their thermals and ski gear for an in-depth winter visit to Punta Arenas and Torres del Paine NP in August. A night or two in Punta Arenas is recommended before the 3-hour scenic drive up to Puerto Natales. From there, it’s just a short drive into the Park. It may be the middle of winter, but the main trails are open year-round, unless snow (unusual) prevents access. The upsides of travelling this time of the year are:
Hiking in near solitary splendour on the main trails is an absolute joy – your clients will experience the true immensity of Patagonia.
The chances of seeing the local wildlife are far higher than in summer. Tell them to look out for guanacos – and maybe even a puma!
Winter snow on the mountain peaks makes for stunning photos! This region is so photogenic – your clients will come back with albums and albums of the Massif reflected in calm, mirror-flat lakes.
So, send your clients to Patagonia in winter! They’ll be
rewarded with spectacular snowy mountains, deserted trails and the silence of
the mountains. And no crowds – just how a wilderness should be!
Chile’s best-kept secret in Peak Season? La Serena and Elqui Valley.
So, your clients have busy schedules and can only go to
Chile in January and February… Well all is not lost! With Chile’s massively
diverse geology, it’s actually really easy to get off the beaten track even at
the busiest time of year.
Who remembers the 2019 solar eclipse? Who doesn’t, more like?! Well, La Serena and its surrounding valleys attracted several thousand eclipse-seekers for a few days in early July and did its best to try to keep everyone happy. But when there’s not an eclipse going on (i.e. 99.99% of the time), this is the area you should be recommending to your clients who want some peace and quiet while getting their fill of sunshine hiking along bone-dry mountain trails with views over the lush green valleys below.
In terms of getting there, La Serena airport (LSC) is about an hour-long flight from Santiago or a scenic drive of a little under 5 hours that’ll introduce your clients to rock-covered mountains and desert pastures framed by cactus hedges until you get to the ocean stretch with its huge sand dunes and giant Pacific Ocean waves that just keep on rolling in as you head north.
For accommodation, Southbound recommend your clients stay at
Casa Molle in the Elqui Valley. This stylish lodge with just 24 rooms estate
features an outdoor swimming pool and lots of lovely space outside in which to
relax and soak up the sun. They could even play golf on the private course if
it takes their fancy but it’s also perfect for families or groups who want to
make the most of the great outdoors by doing some trekking or horseback riding.
Or even a spot of kayaking in a private lagoon, no less.
The valleys inland from La Serena enjoy year-round sunshine. Their clear dark skies at night have meant that it’s become one of the best areas of Chile to stargaze and the area is home to many observatories that can be visited such as La Silla, Mamalluca or Alfa Aldea.
To sum up, the Elqui Valley is one of those magical high season spots where you can be up in the mountains in the morning but down on the coast in time for an afternoon of seafood indulgence, but without the crowds. Now if that doesn’t sound attractive, then I don’t know what does.
With its amazing range of different habitats and microclimates, Costa Rica might be tiny in size but it packs a punch in terms of biodiversity. To be honest, it’s always the right time of year to visit Costa Rica, but if your clients want to reduce their tourism footprint, just encourage them to visit in green season (June to November) or during the transitional months of May and November. In doing so, they’ll be rewarded with bright and sunny mornings for wildlife viewing, hikes and exploration, and rainy afternoons that lend the perfect excuse for relaxing or enjoying a massage. Full disclosure: I’ve only ever been to Costa Rica in May, September and November, so I know first hand that the Green Season is a great time to visit Costa Rica. I should also point out that with its size and all its microclimates, if it’s raining in one region of Costa Rica, you’re never very far from another region where it won’t be raining!
on the Caribbean coast boasts one of the largest nesting populations of Green
turtles on the planet. They start arriving in July to lay their eggs and this
lasts right through until early October. With it taking just over 9 weeks for
the eggs to hatch, your clients may be lucky enough to see the hatchlings
emerging from the sand and making their way into the water as late as early
December but the core time for this amazing sight is during September and
Meanwhile, over on the Pacific coast, Southern Humpback whales start arriving between July and October from the Antarctic. The warm shallow waters of the Uvita area are just right for the whales to give birth and raise their calves. If possible, encourage your clients to include the annual Whale and Dolphin Festival hosted by the Bahia Ballena community. Sea conditions permitting, they will get to go out on boats and get up close and personal with whales and dolphins who seem to enjoy showing off their well-honed acrobatic skills.
season in the Central Valley and Guanacaste region also conjures up some
meteorological magic – namely the “Veranillo de San Juan” (Little
Summer of Saint John). It’s hard to predict the exact dates, but this two-week
climatic phenomenon during which virtually no rain falls usually happens during
the last two weeks in June.
And, finally, as if they needed more incentive, green season travel in Costa Rica offers better value for your clients, as there are lots of special offers such as free nights and lower rates. Travel Excellence will be happy to provide you with all the information you need to give your clients the green light for a green season visit to Costa Rica.
So, it just
goes to show that it’s still possible for your clients to have an amazing trip
out of season wherever they choose to go.
I’ve really enjoyed visiting some of you recently on your home (well, OK, work) territory. Everyone’s needs are different so I tailor my training sessions to what you feel you need – these range from a round-up of what’s new at WMR to a blitz on a particular geographical area/experience to an in-depth ‘tariff’ session, where I teach you how to get the most out of our DMCs’ amazing online systems and help you to become even more brilliant at your job.
As always, do give me a call or ping me an email for more info about any of these or indeed anything you feel WMR can help you with
Blumar have a number of diverse new properties including Pousada Trijunção in Brazil’s great savannah, and Casana in Jericoacoara. Blumar’s Bruno and Lorene have been very busy (and very lucky!) experiencing and reporting back from these stunning properties.
Pousada Trijunção – stargazing and safaris, surrounded by the Cerrado
Opened late in 2018, Pousada Trijunção is in the middle of nowhere! By that, I mean, it’s a 5-hour drive from the nearest airport (Brasilia). Still baffled? Draw a line up from Sao Paulo, and a line inland from Salvador, and you’re more or less there. Completely powered by solar energy and represented by our friends at Senderos, Pousada Trijunção offers a superb array of sustainable experiences ranging from jaguar spotting to Dwarf Caiman night safaris to off-road excursions in search of the Maned Wolf – its star attraction. The dark skies of the interior also make for some fantastic stargazing. Click here to access Bruno’s in-depth report on Pousada Trijunção.
Casana – Jericoacoara’s newest and plushest resort
Casana is in Prea, a small beach village way up on the northeast coast of Brazil and right on the edge of the eye-wateringly beautiful Jericoacoara National Park. Think virgin beaches secluded by dunes of white sand, blue lagoons, treefrogs, grasslands and a mangrove; super luxurious Casana has all of these right on its doorstep. With the opening of Jericoacoara’s new Cruz (JJD) airport in 2017, it’s never been easier for your clients to access this area. Lorene recently returned from a 3-night stay at Casana. Click here for Lorene’s lowdown on high-end Casana.
Juma Opera – Manaus
This much-anticipated hotel is directly opposite the Teatro Amazonas (aka the Opera House), in a beautifully-restored Belle Epoque building. Once it opens later this year, the Juma Opera will be the place to stay in Manaus before/after an Amazon cruise or eco package. Your clients will love you for sending them there!
Kuara Hotel – Arraial D’Ajuda
Bahia’s Arraial D’Ajuda (south of Salvador, due east from Brasilia) on Brazil’s Discovery Coast is home to Kuara Hotel, a lovely new 5-star hotel. Around 20 minutes from the hustle and bustle of popular Trancoso, Arraial d’Ajuda is perfect for those who want somewhere more relaxed than Porto Seguro, but more affordable than Trancoso. Get there by flying to Puerto Seguro (BPS).
Rox by Essenza
Rox By Essenza is in Jericoacoara (rather than Prea) and is moments from the beach. Facing west, this 4-star hotel offers incredible sunset views of the dunes and the sea from its lovely rooftop pool. Just over an hour away from the airport (JJD), this quiet two-storey hotel keeps it nice and simple with just two room types.
After bursting onto the scenes in June, Chile’s newest DMC, Southbound hit the ground running with last month’s fabulous solar eclipse – La Serena’s 2 minutes 15 seconds of daytime darkness brought over 300,000 visitors to the region. If your eclipse-chasing clients missed this one, there’s another one on 14th December 2020 with Villarica being right on the ‘path of totality’. Watch this space!
For now, though, the big news is for further south in Chile: year-round direct flights between Santiago and Puerto Natales.
Southbound are pleased to announce that both Sky Airlines and Jetsmart will be offering direct flights from Santiago to Puerto Natales, resulting in up to 10 flights a week during high season, and 6 flights a week in low season. This will cut out the long drive up from Punta Arenas, which is a massive result for your time-precious clients or anyone else who can’t be dealing with the 3-hour plus road trip.
Talking of the eclipse, a swath of southern Argentina will also be plunged into daytime darkness in 2020. Attipica have some gourmet one-day and luxury overnight glamping options to view the eclipse from Bariloche, San Martin de los Andes and Villa la Angostura. You may remember I fell in love with Bariloche and its environs all over again earlier this year. If you have clients wanting to experience this once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event at an exclusive spot on the ‘path of totality’, give me a shout for full details.
Plus, while we’re in the Lake District, let me just tell you about the sumptuous Villa Beluno which opened its doors in July this year. A fantastic new addition to Bariloche’s accommodation options, Villa Beluno has a spectacular location on the San Pedro peninsula, overlooking Lake Nahuel Huapi. To put that into context, it’s about a 15-minute taxi ride from town, i.e. a little further out of town than El Casco Art Hotel but not as far as Llao Llao. Villa Beluno’s 14 luxurious suites are vast but the icing on the cake for me has to be the heated infinity pool meaning year-round swimming – and with a view to die for!
I’m going! Yes, I’ve been in deep consultation with the Travel Excellence team as I’m plotting and planning my own trip to Costa Rica later this year. Pura Vida! Rest assured I’ll be telling you all about it but for now, you’ll just have to wait. Watch this space…
Finally, if I’m not scheduled to see you until WTM, why not?! Seriously, November is m-i-l-e-s away so if you’d like me to come and visit your office with a bespoke training session on any or indeed all four of my DMCs or their products, just say the word, and we’ll make a plan. I guarantee you’ll you know more than you did – my sessions are informative but fun.
In meantime, enjoy the rest of the summer, and for those of you exhibiting at the Bird Fair this weekend, good luck!
As some of you may know, I am half Chilean and have always had a natural affinity with this unique country. With this in mind, I am utterly thrilled to announce the newest member of the Wendy McNeill Representation family is Chile’s newest DMC – Southbound.
Who are Southbound, I hear you ask. Well, hold on to your chupalla hats, because Southbound is the culmination of the merger of two of Chile’s most well established incoming DMCs, namely Protours and Latitud90.
Protours pioneered the concept of Chilean self-drive itineraries, and have spent the last 25 years building up an impressive inventory of products. Southbound will continue to tailor-make programs for FITs and Groups including traditional packages, cultural experiences, adventure programs and cruises.
Latitud90 have built up a huge selection of ‘off the beaten track’ discoveries that have been put together and marketed by their knowledgeable and well-travelled team over the last 20 years. Their passion for exploring the unknown has always been at the forefront of their business.
What a combo! The merging of these two companies gives Southbound an incredibly strong presence throughout Chile and allows them to provide a highly personalised and complete experience.
As it’s all about relationships, let me introduce you to Southbound’s key players:
German-born Jens Häussermann travelled the world and chose Chile as his home over 20 years ago. Jens is passionate about people, cultures and travel.
Chilean Alberto “Tito” Gana, trained as an architect. He is an avid rock climber, bike rider and trail running enthusiast who has been instrumental in helping many Chileans get to know and grow to love their country from a completely different perspective.
General Manager René ten Berg was born in Holland but has been resident in his beloved Chile since 1993 and has over 20 years experience in receptive tourism.
Commercial Manager Eduardo Doerr hails from Curicó in the heart of Chile’s wine country. Fluent in Spanish, English and French, Ed is a keen kayaker. He loves the outdoors and has a deep passion for the travel industry, its people and the power it has to help develop a country. Ed has also worked at Protours in the past, and is delighted to be working with his former colleagues again.
Southbound’s mission is to inspire people to travel and explore the farthest reaches of Chile. Through their innovative technology, customized marketing, strong product development and phenomenal management team they pledge to listen and to adapt; to not only meet expectations but to exceed them.
I have chosen to represent Southbound as they are bound together by their passion for travel, love for Chile and respect for doing business right, all of which get a big fat tick from me. And, with me being half Chilean, Southbound’s multicultural DNA is the perfect match with Wendy McNeill Representation.
René and Ed will be at ELA next week, giving you the perfect opportunity to get know Southbound! I am truly looking forward to working with Southbound, Chile’s newest but most experienced DMC and sharing my knowledge and enthusiasm for this fantastic destination.
Chi Chi Chi! Le Le Le! Viva Chile – and Southbound!
Carolina and Paula are gearing up to help you get to grips with all the latest from Blumar in Brazil, but to tide you over, here are a few appetisers from Travel Excellence in Costa Rica.
New route to Liberia
Liberia airport in Guanacaste is Costa Rica’s gateway to the northwest but scheduled flights from Europe have always involved the rigmarole of a plane change in the US. From late October this year, your clients will have the option of flying KLM to Liberia via Amsterdam on a Dreamliner. KL717 will operate four times a week to San Jose, continue to Liberia and then head back non-stop to Amsterdam. Think of all those regional departures and open-jaw options!
Foodie San JoseSan Jose isn’t usually a place where clients linger but it’s worth mentioning that some of San Jose’s barrios are getting in on the street food act. So if you have some culinarily inclined clients who want their tastebuds tickled, Barrio Amon is within walking distance of Hotel Grano de Oro.
For the more determined, Barrio Escalante with its food trucks and stalls is a half hour cab ride away. For more info, as always, please just give me or Travel Excellence a shout.
It’s all about the details
Travel Excellence are always working on how they can improve their clients’ holidays and for this reason, Marco has been out in Costa Rica sampling all sorts of ‘experiences’. All will be revealed at ELA, but reading between the lines, you’ll soon be able to go the extra mile for your clients and offer them a range of bespoke experiences bookable through Travel Excellence to help you nab that booking!
Origins Lodge – rave reviews and views to rave about
Travel Excellence have been championing Origins Lodge up in the north of Costa Rica ever since its opening last year; when a review opens with ‘a paradise lost in the rainforest’ and all the others wax lyrical in the same vein, our people in San Jose (as usual!) were clearly ahead of the game.
Origins Lodge is a striking property set high up on a plateau, with sweeping views over the rainforest and volcanoes towards Lake Nicaragua.
With an extensive set of nature trails and fantastic birdwatching opportunities, it even has its own on-site organic farm. Michelin-starred Chef Jean-Luc L’Hourre serves guests a fusion of French and Costa Rican cuisine but it’s the views of the volcanoes and Lake Nicaragua that make staying here so magical. Each of the 6 individual lodges is spacious and comes with a huge terrace, a fire-heated bath and an open air shower. There’s also a another lodge that’s big enough to accommodate a large family or even or group of friends.
It’s a 2-hour drive from Arenal but it’s also worth mentioning that if your clients are coming from or continuing to the north west coast, a scenic 45-minute helicopter flight might be preferable to the 5-hour road transfer to/from Guanacaste.
Did I mention the view? Well, how about this for a view? From the infinity pool no less!
Chachagua Rainforest Lodge – under new management. And wow!
This is not a new hotel but when it first launched, it didn’t pass muster with Travel Excellence. A new management team is now in place and the property has recently emerged from a massive upgrade, resulting Chachagua being transformed into a property that Travel Excellence is now really keen to endorse.
Marco recently spent a couple of nights at Chachagua, and was totally enthralled by the experience. One of the highlights was a night hike where he saw 10 species of frog in the space of just 2 hours – to put it another way, that’s a different frog every 12 minutes!
Chachagua offers its guests basic but comfortable rooms and, with it being only half an hour by road/dirt track from La Fortuna, your clients will get the full rainforest experience (complete with birds, monkeys, raccoons and aforementioned frogs) without spending half a day in a 4×4 being bounced along jungle tracks to get there.
Travel Excellence are in the process of updating their tariff and image gallery to include Chachagua but don’t hesitate to contact me or the Travel Excellence team for the full rundown on this great addition to their Arenal portfolio.
I’m really looking forward to meeting many of you at ELA or putting these extra hours of daylight to good use by catching up with you over an al-fresco tipple or two afterwards.
In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact me should you have questions about any of the above, or indeed anything else WMR-related.
What is it with April weather? One minute you’re practically basking in blazing sunshine, and the next, you’re running for cover, wondering who put that glacial rainstorm in your face?! Luckily for me, I’m still glowing from the warmth generated by Blumar’s Carolina who was with me last week. We braved the elements to come and visit some of you but there’s never enough time to see everyone or cover everything in person, so here’s a quick rundown of the latest from Brazil, plus a sneaky snippet from Costa Rica that can’t wait until next time!
New Hotel – Arpoador Hotel, Rio
At last, a medium size hotel that’s sensibly priced and right on the beach! Yes, right on the beach! In line with its name change from Arpoador Inn to Arpoador Hotel, there’s been a major revamp involving none other than Thiago Bernardes, one of the architects behind the MAR – Art Museum of Rio de Janeiro of wavy roof fame. The hotel is still in its ‘soft opening’ phase but don’t overlook offering this to your budget-conscious clients. Set on the eastern tip of Ipanema Beach (aka Arpoador Beach locally), there’s no shortage of shopping and dining, and the views from its upper floors are spectacular. Rooms are sensibly categorised as small, medium and big! The Blumar team have been and had a good look round, so give me a shout for the lowdown on Rio’s newest hotel.
Super excited to report that Fasano Salvador opened its doors just over a month ago and Blumar’s Ana Paula was one of its very first guests! A stay in this vibrant city is a must – do let me know if you’d like to see her inspection report.
Virgin Atlantic Sao Paulo
Sir Richard has come to his senses and realised that South America needs another Virgin! Woohoo! The date hasn’t been announced yet but from early in 2020, you’ll be able to offer your clients the chance to fly from Heathrow to Sao Paulo and back on a Dreamliner, and enjoy the inimitable Virgin Atlantic experience.
Rio: Carnival like a Native
For your clients who aren’t content with just being dazzled by this annual extravaganza from the grandstands, Blumar have an amazing package where your clients can properly join in the fun! Oh yes, with a little bit of advance organisation, they will don suitable costumes, and samba their way along the route on Parade Night as honoured guests of one of Rio´s renowned Samba Schools.
Reserva do Ibitipoca
I bet you’ve all had this sort of enquiry: “we want to go to Rio, and then on to somewhere where we can forget about our mobile phones and get back to nature to enjoy some quality family/us time in luxurious surroundings but we don’t want to spend half the holiday getting there.” Well, the answer is Reserva do
Ibitipoca – a luxurious countryside retreat less than 5 hours drive from Rio, and – hot off the press – a worthy finalist in the ‘Investing in People Award’ section of the prestigious WTTC “Tourism for Tomorrow Awards” in Seville earlier this month.
This private reserve is the brainchild of Renato Machado, a local businessman with a conscience who started buying up land surrounding Ibitipoca State Park in the 1980s in order to create wildlife corridors and encourage biodiversity by reintroducing endangered species.
With the gorgeous converted 18th-century farmhouse ‘Fazenda do Engenho’ at its heart, Reserva do Ibitipoca – represented by Senderos – has now launched its fabulous ‘Reserva Remota’ portfolio comprising five additional boarding options, namely ‘Humboldt Loft’, Areião House and Areião Loft, Viradoura House overlooking the river and ‘Eagle’s Nest’ which benefits from exceptional views from its above-the-clouds perch, some 1500m above sea level.
Reserva do Ibitipoca combines perfectly with Rio de Janeiro and/or the colonial towns of mountainous Minas Gerais. The nearest airport is Juiz de Fora IZA – 2 hours by road, with a daily Gol flight from/to Sao Paulo CGH – and the best time to visit is between April and October when it is cooler and less rainy. It is perfect for families with teenagers who are into bird watching and horse riding or for those who simply want to ‘unplug’ and experience the Brazilian savannah or ‘Cerrado.’ The smaller Reserva Remota mountain houses are ideal for couples seeking a luxurious romantic getaway.
Drum roll! New hotel coming soon…. Amor Arenal
Delighted to have a new and small option in Arenal. This private, luxurious retreat is just outside La Fortuna out looking over the San Carlos Valley. Comprising just 31 individual casitas with views towards Arenal Volcano, Amor Arenal has been designed to offer guests an exclusive rainforest experience. At the dining table, home grown organic fruits and veggies abound along with fish from their own spring water pools, free-range chicken and eggs, and grass fed beef, depending on the season.
As always, I’m only a phone call or email away so please don’t hesitate to contact me about any of the above, or indeed anything else I can help you with; we’re all in this together!
Best wishes y saludos to you all for a very Happy Easter – with 22° and sunshine promised for Saturday, I feel a trip to the coast is in order!
Buenos Dias! Yes, I’m back from Argentina. And what a trip it was! So many incredible sights and moments.
I’m itching to visit you all and share my renewed enthusiasm and honest opinions, but for now, here’s a synopsis of my trip – all planned and expertly handled by Attipica DMC. I’m delighted to have spent time with Barbara, Inés and their growing team, and have been blown away by their infectious enthusiasm, energy and professionalism. Rest assured your clients will be in safe hands from the moment they arrive.
In other news, it’s the LATA Parliamentary Reception this week. I’ll be in attendance in the company of Carlos from Costa Rica’s Travel Excellence. We’re both really looking forward to seeing many of you there.
Blumar were all glammed up and looking fabulous at Rio’s Belmond Copacabana Palace Carnival Ball last week. Do get in touch for 2020 Carnival packages if this extravaganza of samba and sequins is on your clients’ radar.
A Wander with Wendy in Argentina
I must confess that sometimes I struggle with big cities but I was particularly struck this visit by the greenery of the Argentine capital. The tree-lined streets make a few nights here a real pleasure and I can’t wait to bring you up to speed with the eight hotels I stayed in or visited, including Palermo’s gorgeous Jardin Escondido de Coppola.
After dark, Buenos Aires comes into its own. A real highlight was a night out at a Milonga, in the company of a professional dancer who enthralled me with the history of the Tango – originally used as a form of communication between the immigrants arriving during the 19th century. Thankfully, for me, dancing at a Milonga is entirely optional but if you’ve got your dancing shoes on and get a head nod, you’re on! Attipica can organise lessons.
As a respite from hotel inspections, fine dining and shopping, I enjoyed a very relaxing morning out in the Tigre delta. I was pleased to see it hasn’t changed since my last visit and is still a peaceful trip out of the city.
San Antonio de Areco
Spend a night or two to fully experience a working estancia, but if time is tight, a daytrip out to this sleepy Pampas town with its cobbled streets, gauchos and silversmiths includes a mouth-watering (and very carnivorous!) lunch at La Bamba.
My first visit to this area – I was immediately hit by the heat and vast open space. It’s flat. Very flat. And watery with swamps, lagoons, and rivers. The earth here is that gorgeous rich rusty red colour, the vegetation lush.
Rincon del Socorro
The road out from Posadas to Rincon del Socorro is much improved – what once used to take a bone-shaking nine hours is now down to around five. With its heart-of-the-wetlands location, the wildlife here is literally on your doorstep – you don’t have to venture far to see (or hear) a plethora of mammals and birds. Mind blowing. There’s also good chance of seeing snakes! You may even see a snake that doesn’t look like a snake because it had a capybara for lunch…
Hotel Puerto Valle is stunning and the only luxury lodge with private access to the Ibera Wetlands. With it being only a 40-minute drive from Posadas, it’s just the ticket for your clients who like sumptuous bedding, luxury amenities, air-conditioning and exquisite dining.
Bariloche and The Lake District
The spectacular mountains and lakes here are perfect for lovers of the great outdoors. Seven Lakes Road (part of Ruta 40) links Bariloche to San Martin de los Andes via Villa La Angostura and is almost a destination in itself. Accommodation highlights abound including the secluded Rio Hermoso Mountain Hotel with its impressive range of outdoor activities, and the sumptuous Relais & Chateau Las Balsas Hotel on the shores of Lake Nahuel Huapi. And I must just mention Estancia Peuma with its new Yurts. Glamping rocks in this beautiful part of the world!
El Chalten – the trekking capital of Argentine Patagonia
Mt Fitzroy aka El Chalten aka Smoky Mountain. Aka invisible mountain this trip. Hey ho, I’ll just have to go back! I fell in love with Hosteria El Pilar – it’s been built in the style of the original houses that were pre-fabricated and brought across by British colonisers. A quirkier option is Ecodomes Patagonia (yes, more glamping!). Both are out of town and neither has wifi/mobile signal but they’re right at the start of the ‘Laguna de los Tres’ hike.
If experiencing the Patagonian wilderness is your clients’ priority, I absolutely insist they spend a few nights at Estancia Cristina. Talk about exceeding expectations – I cannot over emphasise the wow factors of this gem of a property and its location! I got to hike their spectacular Fossil Canyon and we didn’t see another person all day. In High Season no less. Its history is also fascinating.
El Calafate and Perito Moreno
Caught up with Argentina’s most famous glacier. A daytrip to Nibepo Aike with its stunning setting is the perfect way for those with less time to experience a Patagonian sheep ranch.
All too soon, I was back in Buenos Aires for a very comfortable final night at the Park Hyatt Palacio Duhal. Of course, I was sad to be leaving but this trip has left me genuinely impressed by the flair with which Argentina manages its tourism. I’m delighted to have strengthened my relationship with Attipica, and am indebted to them for rekindling my love affair with Argentina and its people, whose life-affirming style and warmth will stay with me forever.
Ready for more? Me too! As I said earlier, I’m dying to tell you more, so don’t hesitate to contact me for a spot of destination training and/or to be introduced to my clients in Argentina, Brazil and Costa Rica.
Wendy McNeill Representation has been a pot on gentle simmer that is now ready to come to the boil! Having spent 25 years honing my experience, connections and ideas, it is with great excitement I can announce the launch of my bespoke representation company.
WMR is open for business and ready to welcome new clients. Please contact me to schedule a meeting at WTM or to start a conversation. I look forward to this being a continuation of many long and fruitful relationships. And, the start of many more.