Andrés Garrido is the owner and creator of BikeTours. Married to Inés Casassa, they have 3 daughters with whom they manage the company. Andrés studied Architecture at Universidad de Chile, and has been a biker since he was 15. In 2007 he decided to create BikeTours to mix his passion for Chile, for discovering new places and for design. In his view, tourism is the art of designing experiences, the same way he designs a house or a hotel. Color, texture, pace, highlights, context and contrasts are the concepts he uses for creating unique and unforgettable two-wheeled experiences. But not only.
Using his professional background and extensive experience as an Architect, Andrés has created architecture tours, a niche experience that BikeTours has been asked for to develop as part of its offer.
In the words of Andrés “…tourism is an endless source of learning, and can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. Tourism has the power to create sustainable development in the long run, and is a powerful tool of education and improvement of local economy.”
How do the experiences you offer at Paseos en Bicicleta give guests a unique perspective on the history, people or culture of your region?
We devise our experiences based in:
- The passion of the guides for the work they do
- The quality of information our guides share with our guests
- The varied landscapes we include in each route, either urban or rural
- The uniqueness of the places we visit, some of them never included in any other tour offered by our competitors
- The “texture” of the experience: old and new buildings; strong symbolism; unexpected landscape; remoteness; a local urban character (vendor, owner of a restaurant, fisherman, etc.), a visit to a unique place like a recently refurbished building or a shrine nobody knows or a vineyard not open to tourism…
- Misse en scene: the location for our picnics, the quality and variety of the food we provide, the aesthetic composition when setting the table
With all these elements in hand, we design an experience considering a solid historical and contextual structure and then we add some aspects that our guests would hardly find on their own. The result is a rich combination of exercise, local customs, history and culture.
How have the tours that you offer evolved since their inception?
During these years the biggest lesson we have learnt is “less is more”: a maximum amount of passengers in each tour, a limited number of remarkable stops during the experience, a limited offer of routes because that way we are more effective, efficient and inexpensive. We have also learnt to work with like-minded local agencies and operators, refusing or even stopped working with companies that make us go out of our way.
We have worked with three of the world-class bike tour companies in the world, learning about planning, safety, protocols, quality of service and design of experiences among the most important. With that asset in our pockets, we think have biked a long way since we started 9 years ago with only one route in Santiago.
What is one detail of an experience you provide that may go unnoticed by guests, but which you feel is important?
The quality of our home-made food. At the end of the tour it hardly goes unnoticed (one guest once wrote “I would take this tour only for the food”) but they don’t know it before the take actual experience.
When we have biked several hours in a multi-day experience, or when we have a family with small children taking our Kids&Parks experience or in any other tour, food, prepared especially for the occasion makes a world of difference. It tells our passengers the care we put in our job: special sandwiches for the kids; vegetarian, vegan, kosher, nut allergies, hot soup in a cold day or fresh Chilean dessert in summer, even Champaign for honey mooners is part of our extensive menu to cuddle our guests.
Food is what tells our guest “we care about you, you are special”.
What do you wish every guest knew as they consider participating in one of your cycling tours?
That we are a family enterprise and we work with like-minded people who have the same passion, commitment, care and professionalism that made us to be nominated for the Luxury Travel Global Award 2016.
What is one piece of clothing or equipment guests should have to maximize their enjoyment of the experiences you offer?
- Summer: Sunblock 50SPF, sun glasses
- Winter: layers according to the temperature. Gloves and hat
- Multiday: specialized biking garments, own helmet and pedals if so they wish. A small bag to keep the clothing or items to be needed during the day is highly practical.
What is one travel trend that really excites you?
I am personally excited with mountain routes designed especially for avid bikers. But not only.
Our city tours are a box of gems, where one can be impressed by how Architecture can mirror the society. Or the bike tours in the wine country, at any season an explosion of colors and whimsical off-the-beaten path country roads.
What to say about Patagonia and the Lake District and the breathtaking landscapes we can bike there!
I love each and all of the corners of my country, each different, each lovely, just waiting to be discovered.
What is one insiders tip to getting the most out of an experiential travel vacation?
Go local, travel light, don’t be afraid of the new, expect the unexpected, taste all, do not stick to a rigid schedule, bike or walk preferably, do not have prejudices, take the eventual changes as an opportunity. There’s nothing better than getting lost in a new country. You are a guest in a foreign country: respect and be tactful.
What is one strategy that has helped your business to grow?
To keep the focus in our target audience not dispersing efforts creating other products that could eventually be more lucrative in the short term but not the core of our project. Keeping this in mind, our website, Facebook, Twitter, TripAdvisor page and marketing actions transpire the same line of actions.
What is one personal habit that has helped you to be successful?
Honesty. We have maintained our principles, no matter what. We have decided that we will do what we believe in, and this is to provide an unforgettable experience to our guests. Many times we have gone out of our way just to WOW our customers; or we have refused to work with companies that take us off from the real self of our company. We may have chosen a more difficult path, a longer one, but we have been honest to our principles.
Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provided to them.
After a multiday tour in Patagonia, crossing the Andes from Chile to Argentina with a group of 10 passengers and enduring very bad weather, our last activity was dining in a small restaurant the last night, opened only for us. The atmosphere was very emotional, since we were to depart the day after.
Each of our guests talked about what they had lived the prior days, and one of them said something that really moved me and my wife. He said “I have done many tours in many places, some of them incredibly beautiful. But never in my life was I in a tour where somebody having seen my eyeglasses dirt with the rain, took them, wiped them for me and put them back in my eyes. This care for the details impressed me deeply and is the trademark of BikeTours”.
Inés, my wife, was the person who wiped the eyeglasses of our guest not because it is written in any protocol, but because we feel a deep personal connection with our passengers. They are human beings, our best friends during the tour. They have never been an “ingredient” for our business.