Think you know Santiago Dunn, think again….
There’s more to Santiago Dunn, president of Ecoventura, than meets the eye, so we decided to ask him those comical, personal and telling questions to reveal the man behind the suit.
A native of Guayaquil, Ecuador, Santiago’s fascination with the Galapagos Island began in the early 1980s when his father entered the tourism industry. After seeing the awestruck faces of tourists visiting the famed archipelago, Santiago knew his future lay in the Islands’ tourism industry. Fortunately for him, the Dunns founded Ecoventura in the early 1990s, which Santiago would later purchase (1999) and become sole owner and executive president of (2009).
To this day, Santiago is head over heels for the “Enchanted Islands,” and is now passing down his love for the Galapagos, and travel in general, to the next generation, his four children. Just don’t tell them—or Santiago’s wife—who his favorite work travel companion is! He’s got a lot of explaining to do in this edition of Coffee Time with Industry Vets Q&A series.
Where did you go on your first trip and how old were you?
My first trip abroad was to Disney World in Orlando when I was four years old. Then when I was eight, I traveled alone to Buenos Aires to visit my grandfather who was posted in Argentina. Guess you can say I traveled “solo,” but of course I did stay with them while I was there.
What is your most vivid travel memory?
I have too many to count, but the ones that stand out most include the first time I went to the Galapagos and walked barefoot on the white-sand roads at 10 years old; driving through the French Riviera on my honeymoon; taking my kids to the Galapagos at three and four years old (even younger than the age that we recommend to our guests); and finally, visiting Machu Picchu with my kids. It was cool to hear them say, “I’ve seen this in a picture.”
What was the “Aha” moment that led you into the travel industry?
That moment for me was when I started to see people’s faces once they got to the Galapagos and experienced up-close encounters with the diverse wildlife. Their faces would light up with smiles and I knew then that working in the Galapagos tourism industry was something I wanted to do.
Where did you go on your honeymoon?
My wife and I went to France and Italy for our honeymoon and then fresh off our European honeymoon, two months after we were married, we took our first trip to Ecuador—sailing the Galapagos on the M/Y Eric.
What was your favorite trip you took last year and why?
I would have to say it was to Cusco and Machu Picchu—we went with our four boys during their school holiday and it was incredible.
Where would you like to go that you have yet to visit?
Antarctica and Africa with my kids!
Do you always buy a souvenir the first time you visit a destination?
I don’t usually buy souvenirs—just take pictures. Although I admit I’m not very good at creating an album so I can remember the trip. They tend to stay on my phone.
You can tell us – do you collect magnets from the destinations you’ve visited?
I don’t— but my wife sure does! Her favorite has to be a Tinkerbell magnet from our trip to Disney World in 2014 with all our kids.
What do you do to pass the time on the plane ride to your destination?
Usually I find this is a good time to catch up on writing e-mails that can be sent upon arrival—and of course to catch up on some sleep too.
Who is your favorite travel companion?
My wife is not going to like my answer…but if it’s travel for work, my favorite companion is my son Leonardo, the third of our four. He is so organized and has such an eye for detail, so when we travel to the Galapagos, he can help me out with inspections. When it’s not for work though, my four kids and my wife are the perfect combination.
If there were one hotel room in the world you could call home the rest of your life, which would it be?
The Metropolitan Hotel in London. The location is second to none and their concierge staff is superb—they have saved me when I didn’t have time to shop for soccer jerseys for my four boys!
If you were a destination, which would it be and why?
The Galapagos—because I love to make people smile!
What is the best food you’ve had on a trip? The strangest?
Peking Duck has to be my favorite. The strangest was frog legs in curry pesto sauce.
What can’t you travel without?
My iPhone—for pictures and email; iPad—I like it better than a laptop as it stores books so I don’t need to carry any; dental floss; Burt’s Bees lip balm; and finally, toothbrush and toothpaste.
Tropical beach or snowy mountain?
Warmth…tropical beach it is!
City or countryside?
City—I love the noise, but I do have to balance it by heading into nature for a few days to just listen to the silence.