Newsletter June 2019

Chile comes in from the cold

Pictured: René and I photo-bombing a spectacular view of Osorno volcano. 

Dear friends and colleagues,

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.

Pictured: Ed Doerr

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.

Pictured: René ten Berg
Chi Chi Chi! Le Le Le! Viva Chile – and Southbound!

With best wishes and saludos,
Wendy

Newsletter June 2019

Grab a coffee – it’s Pura Vida time

Dear friends and colleagues,

Finally, we’ve turned a corner and it’s beginning to feel a lot like summer – how lucky we are in this part of the world to have all the extra daylight these long evenings offer.

The Only Way is ELA – let’s make it in Chelsea! 

ELA will be at its new Chelsea Football Club venue next week – naturally, I’ll be there in the esteemed company of:

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.

Saludos,

Wendy

Newsletter 17th April 2019

Wendy’s got her binoculars on….. Brazil!

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

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.

Fasano Salvador

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

Your clients could be part of the Samba Parade!

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.

Costa Rica

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!

Wendy

Newsletter 11th March 2019

Dear friends and colleagues,

Attipica Team

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

Buenos Aires

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.

Tigre

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.

Iberá Wetlands

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…

Puerto Valle

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!

Southern Patagonia

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.

Estancia Cristina

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.

Very best wishes y saludos,

Wendy

Launch News October 2017

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.