When executive headhunter Marc Eschauzier suggested to journalist, photographer, restaurateur (and old school friend) Charles Tyler that they set up a specialist travel consultancy for Asia, Charles said no. Then Marc went away and came back with another suggestion: how about Latin America?
By the official launch party in October 2013, their first customer (‘we prefer to call them guests’), had already returned from a three and a half week trip in South America personally tailored and arranged by specialist travel consultancy – Miraviva.
Marc: Two years ago I decided to leave my job with an executive search firm – call it a mid-life crisis if you like, but I felt my existing job had become more transactional and the advisory and consulting side diminished. Money was no longer a key motivation and the opportunity to travel in South America gave me an idea; a trip to Machu Picchu got me thinking as to how we could bring this experience to others. I didn’t want to do it on my own though and getting Charles on board was a key moment. He’s the creative one while I have the contacts.
Charles: Choosing the name was also an important milestone. We had a long debate before coming up with Miraviva – a combination of two Spanish and Portugese words which loosely translates as ‘living looking’ or ‘actively seeking out (with the eyes)’.
We celebrated our launch with a party in London’s Covent Garden on 1 October 2013, with cocktails and a themed Latin American food demonstration for 150 guests (all potential ‘guests’ for the business too).
Marc: It took us a long time to get from incorporating the business to the actual launch. Partly, that’s because we’re both perfectionists. We didn’t want to go out there with a half hearted product. On one trip to Brazil I visited something like 52 hotels in 33 days in 26 locations; over six months it was over 350 hotels and villas across Latin America.
In this business, it’s also really important that we have the right ground handler – locally based travel operators – in each country. We had a difficult situation in Chile with the ground handler there who let us down and simply had not understood our product. We were able to rescue the situation and replaced them with an excellent partner.
Charles: The first PR company we worked with was a disappointment. Despite taking a lot of trouble to select the right one, we felt they did not really understand our product and USPs properly. Again, it shows how important it is to get the right partners.
Charles: The whole thing was a risk. We didn’t come from the travel industry. Having said that, we’ve both travelled extensively and there is nothing wrong with bringing in ideas from the outside. And everyone in the industry has been very welcoming.
Marc: You don’t get into the travel business solely to make money. You’ve got to really feel passionate about it first and hopefully the money will come.
Marc: My friends thought I’d be retiring when I left recruitment, but I’ve probably never worked as hard in my life. It was only when a friend asked me whether I had any plans for a post launch holiday that I realised I had only taken four days off since February. Ironic really, given we are in the business of organising holidays, that I had not even thought about some time off. But I feel more balanced as an individual. I’ve discovered that work can be enjoyable, and highly rewarding. I don’t resent working over a weekend or into the night as this is my business, and I find the breadth of the role constantly challenging and fascinating.
Charles: Largely I’ve always worked for myself and have never really done a nine to five. So my work and home life have always been quite integrated.
Marc: My mother was born in Brazil and my uncle and Brazilian cousins inspired and encouraged me in the direction of Latin America. In my previous recruitment role I met many self starters who had created their own business and the whites of their eyes showed how wonderful it is to be a successful business owner. I think I’ve always been a frustrated entrepreneur. There has been one individual – James Jayasundera at Ampersand Travel – who has given me great advice right from the start. He encouraged me to invest time and money seeking out the best ground handlers in the region. If not our guests would suffer. And the importance of research and really knowing our product from first hand experience. James also thinks about travel in a very creative way. He creates itineraries which go way beyond the concept of a holiday and are an experience, blending history, culture and relaxation.
Charles: I’d never really been to Latin America before but the scenery, the culture, the wildlife, the food…. the whole of Latin America really is inspirational