THE HARDWARE OF RESTORATION

Peru 2017 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Aldo Macchiavello, Founder & CEO of Delfin Amazon Cruises, on the importance of historic renovation, cultural restoration, and boutique tourism.

 Aldo Macchiavello
BIOGRAPHY
A former senior investment banker with extensive international travel experience, Aldo Macchiavello and his wife Lissy Urteaga are fully dedicated to personally managing their business. A graduate of Purdue University’s Krannert Graduate School of Management with over 30 years in the banking sector, Macchiavello has in-depth knowledge of Peru and a passion for tourism. He brings to the business a unique combination of professionalism, vision, operational capabilities, and the touch and taste of a first-class host.

Delfin has pioneered expedition cruise tourism in the Peruvian Amazon region over the last decade. What are the opportunities available for companies operating in this sector?

Peru has different climatic, cultural, geographical, and archeological areas that are unique and varied in their potential to become important destinations. Not to mention its wildlife. And tourism is defined by products and experiences rather than businesses. In Peru many make the mistake of reducing tourism to luxury hotels, convenience, or comfort. What we need to do is implement programs with far more emphasis on cultural, historic, and architectural heritage, and avoid the trap that other countries have fallen into with shoddy construction in otherwise historic districts because of a lack of a master plan or central administration, thereby destroying their potential as international travel markets. For example, Mexico and parts of Central America have combined the financial efforts of the central government and the private sector to “rescue" much of their culture, history, architecture, and authenticity by restoring their main squares as well as the surrounding buildings. The private sector then committed to developing small boutique hotels and restaurants, each of which were restored using original materials and architectural designs. And it worked, turning these towns into unique and extremely authentic new destinations true to their essence and particular feel. We must renovate what needs to be renovated, regenerate city centers where needed, as well as add infrastructure such as boutique accommodation, mandatorily rescuing their true architectural essence.

What segment do you target at Delfin?

We target the high-end segment because that is not only where we are most comfortable in terms of risk, revenue generation, and profitability, but, equally importantly, because it is the kind of tourism that needs to be developed for Peru to become a major tourism destination. It is also important for conservation and preservation. All of Peru's most famous, precious, and popular destinations are located in places that cannot handle large numbers of tourists. Machu Picchu, Arequipa, Nazca, Trujillo, and Chiclayo are all fantastic sites but are fragile and cannot sustain large volumes.

How do you overcome the lack of qualified personnel and human resources in Peru?

Tourism is not generally considered a viable career for well-educated professionals, so finding the right people can be difficult. And yet you have to be every bit as professional in tourism as any other sector, especially if you want to grow, improve, and prosper. Unfortunately, the schools that offer tourism courses do not provide an adequate curriculum. They need to become more corporate. The regulations, taxes, and legal framework all require highly trained, dedicated, and topnotch professionals. We also need to lay the framework for a better, more centralized, more efficient decision-making apparatus that has the capacity to create and follow strategic long-term visions. Countries like Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil, Panama, and Costa Rica are far ahead of us in this regard, and they have nowhere near the destinations that Peru does.

What is your strategy for consolidating your business over the short term?

Our Expedition Cruise products are already well recognized in the international market. However, while our focus is always to maintain a high level of service, top quality products, and infrastructure, and the best cost efficiency basis possible, we are also prepared to expand our business beyond this consolidated stage. For this we have already analyzed several investment projects that are ready to be implemented from 2016 onwards. However, we will only invest in these new projects when we see how the new government addresses the challenges facing the country's tourism sector and how the regional and global economies develop. We plan to expand and diversify our offering of products—including the risks and mitigations this entails—in the coming years. This includes projects in both Peru and Central America.