Cuba from the Heights
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.