Trip Planning and how Gringo Tours came to be
When asked how we started working in Tourism here in Suchitoto, I tell of how it all was really not planned in any way but that said we have been very active promoting El Salvador and Suchitoto since 2005, a couple of years before we had any idea of starting our small family tour company. I had and continue to work in social development and since 2005 now the project director of a no interest student loan program financed under the care of the Palo Alto Friends Meeting in Palo Alto California.
But back in 2005 I had a small internet café “Cyber Café El Gringo” and some of the businessmen here asked if I wanted to become part of a budding Tourism Association. I though at the time that tourism could and should be a part of the economic development of little Suchitoto and why not El Salvador. So there I was part of the association and the only native English speaker and what local thought of as the guy that knew about IT.
My first chore was to see what information was out there about Suchitoto and El Salvador, what I found was to say the least worrisome. There was virtually no information in English about Suchitoto and very little about El Salvador. What little information I found was from people in Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala, who more than not said “don’t go, there is not much there and it’s dangerous”.
I had been living here about 11 years at the time and felt really safe, and I found the country beautiful, diverse and the best…the people, friendly, helpful and not looking to get the most out of foreign tourists. Now participating on several travel forums and letting people know that El Salvador is worth a visit, I found myself dedicating hundreds of hours to this and felt a passion.
Late in 2006 a fellow from Tennessee after providing him travel advice for some 6 months, asked me, “would you have any interest in planning my entire trip and being my driver guide?” I wrote back saying I would have to think about it. After a day or two discussing things with my wife, thinking about how it would work with my old pickup and wondering what I could charge for the service, I decided to give it a try. The two young men from Tennessee were my first clients, 9 full day tours to pretty much everywhere you could go back then. I clearly remember the morning of Day #3, as my clients were getting into my pickup, one said, “ Robert we want to talk” my heart dropped, in my mind I thought oh God, they are not enjoying their time, maybe I am talking too much, maybe they don’t like the information…After a short pause he started up again saying “last night we were talking and we just want to know that this has been great, everyday has been better than the day before…we don’t know what to expect for the rest of the trip!” It was these words of praise from an experienced world traveler, who back in 2007 at the end of his trip told me about his year long trip planning to dozens of past countries, always looking for a bilingual driver or driver-guide and as he handed me a nice tip said “You have to date been by far the best guide I have hired”
Well perhaps too long a story for most to read but my point is that it has all become easier than that first itinerary and now with over 10 years providing service I still like the planning, making sure that each potential visitor to El Salvador, knows what to see, where to stay, the different foods, transportation options and everything else needed to plan a trip to El Salvador.
My wife Tita still thinks I am crazy as I spend even more time today helping travelers who many times just need information and many times don’t use our tour or transportation services. I feel good just knowing that each person who contacts us will get the best unbiased travel information for tiny El Salvador.
So remember the service is free, ask as little or much about El Salvador and I will do my best to help when and where possible. I just ask that once you get back home that you tell your friends and family that El Salvador and its people is worth a visit.