CEO Q&A with Rafa Mayer, Founder of Say Hueque Journeys

CEO Q&A with Rafa Mayer, Founder of Say Hueque Journeys

Rafa Mayer and his family enjoy traveling together as much as he enjoys helping families travel.

Say Hueque Argentina & Chile Journeys has specialized in providing customized travel experiences with a special focus on nature and local culture since 1999, when founder Rafa Mayer combined his two greatest loves: Argentina and travel.

Earning a marketing and advertising degree, Rafa traveled the globe until the age of 24, when he decided to settle down and dedicate himself to what he loved the most: inviting people from around the world to experience South America.

Twenty years later, his team of 60 employees share his love for local culture, an appreciation for amazing landscapes, and his passion for helping people experience Argentina in a memorable way.

The FTA interviewed Mayer to better help our members understand how to work with his company to create amazing experiences for families of all kinds.

FTA: What is Say Hueque’s specialty, and how do you help travel agents deliver on this promise to their clients?

For travelers, we provide tailor-made experiences in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. We are known for our spirit of adventure and almost all of the trips we offer include some type of outdoor activity in natural settings. We have built a solid name for ourselves which is highly associated with southern Patagonia, and we truly know Patagonia like the back of our hand, with years of experience traveling there and operating both groups and individual travelers.

About half of our business comes from tour operators who are based in the U.S. We also work with travel agents who specialize in South America or Adventure travel.  We have an entire department of 18 sales agents who work solely with tour companies and travel agents, and we pride ourselves on building long term relationships (many of our clients have been partners with us for more than 15 years), getting to know them and understanding their clients’ needs. Honestly, we develop partnerships and true friendships as we work together with them to create the best experience for their guests.

FTA: What sets your company apart from other companies that could guide American travelers to South America?

Tailor-made itineraries, personal attention throughout the booking process, and frequent follow-up with our guests throughout their trip are some qualities that help us to stand out. We are highly regarded as experts in Patagonia, adventure travel and finding quirky, quaint local lodging that is reasonably priced. We tend to look for small and charming hotels with local experience, and also find ways to save our guests money by offering shared or semi-private options (small groups of 8) for excursions, as well as private excursions, of course. Also, we have the best and kindest team of guides all over Argentina & Chile. That´s one of the things that definitely set us apart.

FTA:Who do you find to be the ideal client for your company?

Our ideal client is a person who has a sense of adventure, who wants to delve into the local culture, and who enjoys natural areas of South America.

FTA: What do you think is the greatest challenge your company has attracting U.S. originating travelers and convincing them to book a tour with you?

We actually started out with most of our clients coming from Europe, but over the years, and certainly, at this moment, most of our guests come from the USA or Canada (about 60%). This has been an organic, natural change, and we believe it is because we offer tailor-made itineraries and personalized attention in our trips to Patagonia and beyond. Also, we are proud to have twenty years of experience and to be recommended by Nat Geo and Lonely Planet, among other reputable media. So truthfully, at this moment, it is not a challenge for us to attract US originating travelers. They seem to find us on their own. Usually, through word of mouth or the internet where Say Hueque comes up when you type in ‘Patagonia.’

FTA: Where do you see your company developing new tours or offerings to meet the future wants and needs of travelers to your country and region?

The future needs and wants of travelers are focused mainly on transformational travel. With our focus on local-life immersion, we want our travelers to experience how things are for our people, from the gauchos in the pampas to the Andean culture in the northwestern part of Argentina, while also working on developing new hikes and tours to unexplored places.

New forms of travel involve more focus on the emotional impact of the destination on the traveler, which includes meeting local people who live in a very different way than everything the traveler has seen up to that moment.

For kids, experiencing different cultures has a huge impact, and serves as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It is a fabulous way of learning and opening their minds. We understand that all families are unique we know that traveling as a family is synonymous with fun but we also recognize that it involves extra care and attention to embark on the journey of your dreams when you have kids. At Say Hueque, we adapt our family itineraries to fit the unique point of view of a child, ensuring that there will never be a dull moment during your adventures.

The new tours we are producing are oriented towards the discovery of off-the-beaten-path treasures since Argentina has plenty of undeveloped or less-developed areas where travelers can truly be one with nature. We always seek for an intimate encounter with nature. We have the knowledge to be in the right place and the right time to avoid big groups of tourists!