An Interview with Monica Irauzqui, VP of Yampu Tours
“Yampu Tours is focused on quality not quantity.”
-Article By TravelDew
Yampu Tours was founded in 1998 by Peruvian native Jose Irauzqui and his wife Monica. The cofounders travel frequently throughout Asia, Africa, Mexico, Central and South America with their two children, ages 15 and 17, and use their personal experiences and extensive research entwined in their business. Jose and Monica have built an expert company dedicated to international travel that departs from mainstream tourism and seeks to create personalized experiences for their clients. Yampu Tours is the 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 winner of the prestigious World Travel Award as South America’s Leading Tour Operator and 2014 and 2015 Central America’s Leading Tour Operator.
How do the experiences you offer give guests a unique perspective on history, people or culture of the regions where you travel?
We use local guides in every area we travel. These guides grew up in these places, they know the people, the things they are proud of as well as their struggles, these experiences are passed on to Yampu travelers thru stories, food, community or household visits, and weaved throughout the tour. A site like Sacsayhuaman Fortress in Cuzco that most travelers will visit, comes alive with our guide who begins the tour up on the hill looking down on the site and tells the stories of early Incas who built this site in the shape of a Pumas head. Then he points out the Inca slides that the kids used to play on, bringing a historical site alive. Additionally if our travelers have the time, we take them to a local village off the beaten path, to have tea with a local family who invites us into their home. We do farming with the community, participate in a local meal, a hike or weaving with this family. Of course each destination this changes with the local customs, but this is a nice example. Yampu Tours strives to connect each traveler with the people of the region.
How have the experiences that you offer evolved since their inception?
Our experiences have evolved to become much more specialized per client. We try to get them off the beaten path as much as possible, tailor make as much as possible the experience to their likings. We want people to go home knowing much more than just the touristy sites, we want them to love the people and the countries.
What is one detail of an experience you provide that may go unnoticed by guests, but which you feel is important?
The time our sales and operations department spends in the background, with pre-departure details, during the trip monitoring, and after the trip follow up. When you travel with us you get more than just hotels and tours, you get a whole logistical back up team, 24/7.
What do you wish every guest knew as they consider participating in the experiences you offer?
We don’t cut costs to make the trip cheap. All the trips can be done cheaper, but we believe that most clients’ vacation time is more valuable and things should be done the best way possible from the beginning. Most clients do not return to the same country twice, so we strive for them to get the best experience the first time.
What is one travel trend that really excites you?
I am really excited that families are starting to take the kids on cultural trips at a younger age. Having kids know as many different kinds of people as possible is so important. Also kids learn so much about geography, science, and history. A trip to Galapagos, makes that science class they take come alive. One of my favorite memories is when my daughter who studied birds at school was in the Galapagos and she noticed the mother Albatross feeding her baby regurgitated food. She stopped the guide and we all stood to talk about it and as we did a Frigate bird, swooped down to steal the food from the baby’s mouth. What an incredible learning experience, beats sitting in a classroom memorizing the periodic table.
What sets Yampu Tours apart from other, similar, organizations?
Yampu Tours is focused on quality not quantity. We would rather have less travelers, and provide them flawless trips, then mass travelers getting mediocre trips. Each and every client has a team of people working tirelessly to make sure the trip is planned perfectly, goes off without a hitch and any unexpected situations get resolved in the best way possible. You can be out enjoying a rafting trip while our office is rescheduling your itinerary due to changes in a flight or a train for example. When our clients write us letters, we send it to everyone in the organization so we all may learn what we did great and anything people may not have liked. Sometime we learn that what one client likes another may not, so in the future, we need to ask the client and have a discussion prior to travel. This is why 70% of our clients are repeat or referral clients.
What is one insiders tip to getting the most out of an experiential travel vacation?
Let your travel consultant know how comfortable you are with visiting the home of a local. Some clients really love this when others may feel very uncomfortable. I was once on a fishing trip in Nicaragua and the boat captain took an old looking bowl from the boat, put Clorox in it, dipped it into the ocean, and brought it out and made ceviche out of our newly caught fish right there on the boat. I almost did not eat it because this is not American cleanliness standards, but my curiosity got the better of me. It was the best ceviche I ever had, but some of my friends and clients would cringe at such a thing. It was spontaneous, not something I would plan for a client, but I will always remember it. The more we know about clients’ preferences the better.
What is one strategy that has helped your business to grow?
Having the right employees, their training, our working as a team, and the owners’ hands on involvement in the whole process. Yampu is only as good as it’s people.
What is one personal habit that has helped you to be successful?
Caring about people is the most important habit, we care about our travelers and also the people in the country. Travel everywhere, inspect as much as possible, ask lots of questions, be the most knowledgeable and love what we do.
Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provided to them.
There are so many. Here is an excerpt from a client who visited a local community in Peru:
“We had the pleasure of preparing breakfast for the preschools. They were adorable. We made oatmeal, ham sandwiches and we also passed out passion fruit. For lunch we were served baked potatoes, the best we ever had so wonderfully fresh with cheese and a dip which I can’t recall the name. And chicha beer. The children made us thank you cards which i took home with me. When we return to Peru we plan on spending a few days there assisting with anything they need us to do. Each of us did plant a tree near the school.
We were all sad to say good bye.”