Q & A with Jose Uscátegui, Operations Manager, Zaia Travel, Bucaramanga, Santander, Colombia.
An inbound travel operator based in Colombia, South America, for groups or individuals; short trips
(2-3 days), longer excursions (8-12 days), and tailor-made itineraries available upon request.
AND HOW DO PEOPLE LEARN ABOUT YOU?
We’re an inbound operator. In the past we spent time attending the major B-2-B conferences within the tourism industry. This year we will to do more marketing direct to consumers online, and these campaigns will be launched later this summer.
WHICH OF YOUR TOURS ARE THE MOST POPULAR?
Our “Heritage Towns” tour is the most requested. We spend one-and-a-half weeks (11 days, 10 nights) visiting several cities within Colombia to explore the history, culture and architecture of the Spanish colonial period. We also have tours that go into the agricultural regions where the world-famous Colombia coffee beans are grown, and those tours can attract visitors who love to drink coffee!
The tours, transfers, hotels, and support for a local reforestation project.
TELL US ABOUT THIS PROJECT.
This is an initiative we had in planning for several years with a partner, and we finally launched in June of 2014. Everything has gone very well, and to date we have planted almost 1600 trees - a number beyond our original expectations. So we’re really happy to be a part of this important project where our clients can visit Colombia and contribute along with us to its environmental welfare.
Some travelers are very concerned about safety. However once they are here and touring, they realize there's nothing to fear. Colombia is a different place today than it was 15 or 20 years ago.
WHERE DO YOUR GUESTS COME FROM?
Mostly they come from Germany, Italy, Spain, Holland, UK, USA, and Canada.
AND HOW DO THEY GET TO THIS PART OF COLOMBIA?
Many will first arrive in Bogotá, usually by air travel. Some will rent a car and take a road trip leaving Bogotá and stopping in different destinations before arriving later in Bucaramanga. Others will fly to either Bogotá or Medellin and then change flights to Bucaramanga. It takes about 40 minutes by air to reach Bucaramanga from either of those cities.
Yes - most newcomers are not expecting it. Others may have done some research before visiting so they knew about it, and now they are here to see everything for themselves. [There are more than 300 ecosystems in Colombia.]
DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVORITE BIRDS OR ANIMALS?
I like the pink dolphins that live in the Amazon River.
As with so many big countries, Colombia has variety of regions and districts, and each one reflects a somewhat different local cuisine. For that reason our guides encourage every guest to try something new in each destination and will recommend the most authentic restaurants in those places. But whatever they eat, surely no guest can leave Colombia without trying our patacones (fried green plantains) which can be served with fish, meats, or with a simple tomato and garlic sauce.
WHERE DO GUESTS STAY AT NIGHT?
Our tour groups stay at small locally-owned boutique hotels.
I hope they will take home photos and memories of our beauty and biodiversity. I hope they will feel a new friendship with the local people they have met. Finally, I hope they will feel good about helping support our small-town economies and preserving the environment.
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