But 1999 was a tricky time to start, and soon thereafter came 9/11: it was clear that we would need to concentrate on one aspect of the business, and the decision became clear. Following 9/11, the US and Europe were perceived by South Americans as unsafe destinations, therefore what remained was travel down to South America.
The year of 1999 saw the founding of the offices in Stuttgart, Germany and a US presence near Seattle, and the company soon had its trusted travel partners in Brazil and other South American countries.
Soon one thing was understood, however: Feet on the ground were needed to provide the best service! Expertise – local experts were needed! The idea was not simply to “show people around.” Did you know that most animals in South America are not found in the Amazon? Or that Brazil features a second distinctive rainforest that can be explored by train, or that Machu Picchu actually is perhaps the most scenic but historically not the most significant citadel in Peru? Our aim was to bring people to understand what they witness.
Why for example the independence of Brazil from Portugal happened without a shot, whereas it took years of wars to gain independence from Spain for the rest of South America. Why so much in South America resembles Europe. Why Lima was the de facto capital of the Asian Islands of the Philippines. How South America south of Panama could be so different from Central and North America north of Panama. We needed our own perspective with our own offices!
South American Expansion
Having our own offices on the ground also gives us the chance to always be first when a hidden gem becomes logistically available: as soon as the light of day hits the gem, we are first to see it.
The first South American office was Rio de Janeiro, established in 2001. More than just practical: it was the dream of the founders- located in Copacabana and strategically close to the main highlights and best accommodations. Everything in tourism in Brazil in one way or the other begins in Rio. Soon the word spread, and other tour operators were turning to our operations office in Rio as well. They had understood that we were aiming for a higher, more educated experience.
In 2005, the Argentina office came next, followed immediately by Peru’s. Same philosophy, same aim, same standards. And even today, our General Manager of the Lima office in Peru, David Almeida, is after all those 14 years the longest-serving member of our team.
Throughout its twenty-year history, SouthAmerica.travel has remained faithful to the spirit of our central idea present since day 1: spreading a “universal understanding” of people, culture, and ideas.