Martha Tavera was born in Lima, Peru. She attended college in South America and began her career working in the American Embassy in Peru for 3 years. Before she opened Marnella Tours 32 years ago, she worked for American Airlines, Viasa Airways, and Argentina Airlines.
During this time she became a member of SITE and was responsible for assisting the opening of the SITE Chapter in Mexico and Brazil. Her travel experience has always been in Tour Operation and Incentives. This gave her a foundation for understanding group travel and also viewing at clients as VIPs and not just clients. She is now in the field of consulting and teaching new employees in the company as well as special customized programs.
TRO: What was your earliest travel memory you can recall?
Martha Tavera: Flying to the US from my home in Peru over 50 years ago on Ecuatoriana de Aviacion (no longer in business) when the fly hostess offered to fix my hair after an overnight flight! From then I was hooked on the glamour of travel. I was 22 years old.
TRO: What is your role at Marnella Tours?
MT: Officially, Director of Sales. After so many years I still love the process of working with our partner agents creating new and exciting itineraries for our clients so you will always see me on the phone doing just that. The wonderful thing about this business is that with each request there are new challenges so it keeps the work fresh.
Unofficially, I’ve been called the ‘Guru’. With 30 plus years creating & selling South America I’ve seen & sold most everything so there is a lot of knowledge to share. As I see Marnella expand I find great pleasure in helping to pave the way for the next generation of South American ‘specialists’ in the company.
TRO: Tell us about Marnella Tours. How did it originate?
MT: After seven years of working for the airlines (VIASA & Argentina Airlines), in partnership with a friend, and with the encouragement of family and colleagues, I decided to open Marnella Tours. While our original focus was primarily Brazil, we quickly expanded our services to cover most of South America, including Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia and Colombia. That was over 30 years ago! Quite honestly the dream was to see it grow and hopefully one day have one of my children take an interest and continue it, so far I can say dreams do come true!
TRO: What is your favorite Marnella destination?
MT: As I’ve always said, it’s the last place I’ve been to. At the moment that would be the Patagonia, in both the Chile and Argentina. What many people often don’t realize is that South America is such a mixed bag truly offering something for everyone. I like to equate it to a quilt, every destination, or patch, has its own story and beauty, so I’ve always found it difficult, if not impossible, to pick just one destination. For now it’s Patagonia.
TRO: What is Marnella’s relationship with travel agents?
MT: We have always been a wholesale tour operator, first and foremost. Though business in general has changed (thank you internet) and specific aspects of the industry have changed over the three plus decades we’ve been in business, the wholesale operator / retail agent relationship still remains the life blood. Over the past few years in particular Marnella Tours has reinvested in that relationship and will continue to do so as we move forward. We believe that our success is directly tied to that of our retail agency partners.
TRO: How have agents successfully sold South America in the many years Marnella has been operating?
MT: Our feeling has always been that destination awareness and first hand local knowledge is at the forefront to successfully selling any destination, in particular South America. With so much information readily available to travelers on the internet today, retail agents have the unenviable task of having to keep up with ALL the latest trends and ‘must-see’s’ so that they can properly advise their clients. What we provide to our agency partners is that first hand local knowledge and awareness. The fact that we only offer South America is not just by happenstance. We want to be, and feel that we need to be, the retail agents ‘go-to’ source for the current trends within the destinations we offer and focusing solely on South America for so long we believe we are.
That being said, our agency partners have been successful in selling South America, in part at least, by taking advantage of the knowledge that we share with them. Passing along our first-hand knowledge, and years of experience with our destinations we believe a retail agent can at least match, if not exceed, even the most well informed clients expectations.
TRO: Does Marnella have any campaigns or incentives for travel agents right now?
MT: We have recently increased our base commission on all programs to 11%, with an opportunity to earn up to 13% on select programs.
TRO: Do you have any advice for travel agents that may be struggling to sell South America?
MT: Educate yourself on the destination! Consumers today are more well-informed now than ever before. And, if they feel that their travel agent knows less than they do, they may be prone to go elsewhere to make their travel arrangements. So, when in doubt, call Marnella for advice, because that is what we are here for.
TRO: Is there any new and exciting news or happenings on the horizon for Marnella Tours?
MT: As a matter of fact, yes. In the next few months Marnella Tours will be launching its new website! It has been in the works for some time and we are very excited for its arrival. As well, for the first time in many years we will be releasing a brochure for our travel partners. Last but definitely not least, starting next year we will be offering travel agent webinars on our destinations. All these new releases will highlight our various destinations and give our travel agent partner’s more helpful tools when offering South America to their clients.
As for destination news, we will be offering more in-depth itineraries in Colombia to our menu, adding more ship offerings in The Galapagos Islands, the Cormorant & Ocean Spray, both catamarans, and of course the luxury cruises of the Silver Galapagos in conjunction with Silversea Expeditions. As is with every New Year, we’ll be adding numerous high quality boutique hotels around South America as they have become some of our top sellers. One specialty program definitely worth mentioning, the FIFA World Cup championships arrive in Brasil this coming summer and with the inclusion of the US Men’s National Team it is generating lots of interest.