Cu­ba from the Heights

Excelencias Turísticas del caribe y las Américas - - A Cielo Abierto / Open Skies -

WINDTROTTERS BALLOONS DE GOLDBLACK, A COM­PANY OF THE EX­CE­LEN­CIAS GROUP, IS READY TO MA­KE YOU FEEL, LITERALLY AND EMOTIONALLY, UP ON CLOUD NINE. TRA­VE­LING IN A BALLOON IS NOT ONLY AN EXPERIENCE THAT YOU SHOULD LIVE, BUT AL­SO THE MOST ORIGINAL GIFT FOR THE PERSON YOU CA­RE FOR THE MOST

Would ha­ve ne­ver gues­sed that just about 20 years af­ter step­ping on this land and flying over it I would ha­ve found my­self im­mer­sed in starting a hot-air balloon bu­si­ness in Cu­ba. One of the advantages this job has is the tre­men­do­us amount of peo­ple you get to know du­ring your trips. In many ca­ses, you cer­tainly spend va­lua­ble ti­me with peo­ple who don't ha­ve much to gi­ve and only on­ce in a blue moon “the ha­re jumps out of the hat” and so­meo­ne really re­le­vant pops up.

This is exactly what hap­pe­ned to me around the da­tes I men­tio­ned at the top of this pie­ce. Then, I ca­me across so­meo­ne I de­fi­ni­tely hold a great per­so­nal and pro­fes­sio­nal re­la­tions­hip with. He was -and still is- a restless guy who's al­ways mu­lling over the next “big mess” he's ready to jump in­to.

Ob­viously, the op­por­tu­nity to meet so­meo­ne li­ke that can­not be pas­sed up. For that reason, and af­ter half­way in­to the first con­ver­sa­tion -you al­ready know the pro­verb that says “a word to the wi­se is enough”- we be­gan to co­lla­bo­ra­te he­re and the­re, but we al­ways had in mind the de­ve­lop­ment of a pro­ject that could bring this hot-air balloon ac­ti­vity to Cu­ba, his be­lo­ved is­land for which he shows so much lo­ve.

If I in­tro­du­ced this man to you as Jose Car­los, that would cer­tainly say not­hing to you. But his sur­na­me is “De San­tia­go.” Put the who­le na­me to­get­her and look it up on the In­ter­net. You'll see that the search will re­trie­ve mo­re in­puts and allu­sions than The Beatles. JC has spent half of his li­fe­ti­me on the is­land; he is the Chair­man and Edi­tor-in-Chief of the Ex­ce­len­cias Group, and the­re­fo­re, a great con­nois­seur of lo­cal dy­na­mics and idiosyn­crasy, a reason why he's been wi­lling to em­bark on this ad­ven­tu­re.

The first on-the-spot test ca­me to pass this past spring du­ring Cu­ba's most im­por­tant tra­vel and tourism fair, FITCu­ba 2018, held at the ama­zing fa­ci­li­ties of the Ser­co­tel Experience Ca­yo San­ta Ma­ria Ho­tel, right in an idy­llic pla­ce on tho­se is­lets off the coast of the cen­tral pro­vin­ce of Vi­lla Cla­ra. The only thing I re­gret is that I only had the op­por­tu­nity to vi­sit a re­sort li­ke this by stee­ring a balloon rat­her than by ha­ving my wi­fe next to me. But, well, work is work, so I can only blow a kiss for her from he­re.

That was the first ac­tion of a pro­ject li­ke Windtrotters Balloons de Goldblack, a com­pany of the Ex­ce­len­cias Group that sells free and tet­he­red flights on hot air balloons on the Is­land by the hand of Ecotur and the sup­port of the Avia­tion Club of Cu­ba. For this reason, and as a star­ter, we took a tiny balloon to the fair in or­der to fa­mi­lia­ri­ze par­ti­ci­pants with the idea.

Alt­hough the weat­her did not help much, we had the com­pany of nearly all fair at­ten­dees, in­clu­ding Cu­ba's Tourism Mi­nis­ter Ma­nuel Ma­rre­ro, who ma­de up his mind to ri­de on the balloon. The experience was a genuine honor.

In mar­ke­ting terms, the experience was highly sa­tis­fac­tory re­sult thanks to the fact that the big­ti­me tour ope­ra­tors that at­ten­ded the fair in Cu­ba we­re ent­hu­sias­tic about the pro­ject and ea­ger to in­clu­de it on their ad­ver­ti­sing port­fo­lios. In this par­ti­cu­lar field, JC really finds his groo­ve.

Our script is very sim­ple: the chan­ce to of­fer tou­rists from around the world a on­ce-in-a-li­fe­ti­me op­por­tu­nity: the op­por­tu­nity to discover Cu­ba in a way that will mark their li­ves fo­re­ver on­ce they can ma­ke out so­me of the is­land na­tion's wil­dest na­tu­ral areas from a bird's-eye view.

The plan­ned lo­ca­tions for ope­ra­tio­nal ba­ses and flight zo­nes are the Yu­mu­ri Va­lley in Ma­tan­zas or the in­cre­di­ble Vi­ña­les Va­lley. This is a dream co­me true thanks to the sup­port of our lo­cal and lo­gis­tics part­ners: Cu­ba's nature and ad­ven­tu­re tourism arm -Ecotur- hea­ded by Raúl Na­ran­jo, a man who's al­ways wi­lling to sha­re his know­led­ge and ex­per­ti­se to ma­ke this pro­ject fea­si­ble every step of the way, and the Avia­tion Club of Cu­ba, by the hand of his ent­hu­sias­tic chair­man, Er­nes­to Ad­lum, and its chief of ope­ra­tions, Raul Pe­rez, who's al­so at the helm of the lo­cal Mi­cro­light Club. Both men bring their va­lua­ble know­how, pi­led up on them for over th­ree de­ca­des de­vo­ted to air na­vi­ga­tion.

Now the­re you ha­ve it. Windtrotters Balloons de Goldblack, a com­pany of the Ex­ce­len­cias Group, is ready to ma­ke you feel, literally and emotionally, up on cloud nine. Tra­ve­ling in a balloon is not only an experience that you should live so­me­day, but al­so the most original gift you could gi­ve to your spou­se, your chil­dren, your friends, your best cus­to­mer. For­get about ta­king them to a fancy res­tau­rant or gi­ving them a mag­ni­fi­cent pen as a gift. I'm su­re no­ne of them will ever for­get that person who ga­ve them the chan­ce to feel such stun­ning ex­pe­rien­ces.

This com­ment I do it with aut­hen­tic know­led­ge of cau­se. When I still meet or see pas­sen­gers who flew with me 20 years ago, the first thing they do, af­ter a warm gree­ting, is to re­mem­ber me about that un­for­get­ta­ble day they ro­de a balloon with me. Ob­viously, I in­vi­te you to discover that con­ta­gious fee­ling with us.

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