A sampling of six resorts in Vilcabamba reveals that many no longer maintain a personal website detailing daily events and the unique characteristics of their property. They now rely primarily on room booking sites like Booking.com, Expedia.com, and others to direct guests to their businesses. Of the six resorts I chose at random; in every case where I typed the name, a booking agency was listed. Two had no exposure other than booking sites, and those who do maintain their own website are posted far down the list of rankings.
The problem, of course, is that the character, pace, culinary expertise, and personality of the host is not considered, putting the innkeeper at a significant disadvantage when trying to distinguish their resort from the others in the region.
It also appears that on occasion, there are unintended consequences, as well. Consider this story from, John Hodges, a frequent traveler.
“I had been staying in a hotel in Quito for a few days and decided to extend my visit for one more day, so I asked the clerk at the front desk if that was possible. He didn’t know.
He advised me that a booking site was the only way to inquire as to availability and that a phone is provided at the front desk for this purpose. I called a website and received an offer of $90 for an additional evening, which was odd because I expected to pay $130, just as I had for each of the previous three nights.”
Ouch! The innkeeper receives less income, and the guest feels he paid too much for his initial three-day stay.
Perhaps there is another way.
Izcayluma Resort, Vilcabamba’s largest private employer, is bucking the trend by maintaining the old world standards set 18 years years ago when two German brothers purchased a swath of cattle land and built a refuge.
“I want to influence the guests of Izcayluma,” says Peter (just Peter), one of the owners and spokesperson. “We are growing a world-class yoga center that will rival the best in all of South America, and are committed to offering a place guided by serenity, peaceful co-existence and responsible stewardship.
“I know I am considered old-fashioned when I lament the day I acquiesced to the demands of visitors for high-speed internet and clear phone reception, but I maintain that Vilcabamba serves a special purpose — a place to be rejuvenated without the trappings of distraction. This special place is one of the last fruits on the tree.”
Peter may be right. He proudly told me that he designed the gardens, the cabins, dining facility, lounge, and brewery. His latest effort is designing and building a cabin for a family who stays three months out of the year. He asked what they wanted and is making it to their specifications. It will be ready in time for their arrival in November.
This devotion to the application of arts and craft into one’s daily life is the cornerstone of the resort’s success and a beacon for those seeking an alternative to industrial strength vacations.
I asked Peter what lessons he’s learned at Izcayluma. His answer was thoughtful.
This year will mark the first year in which long-term employees will begin receiving pensions, the second generation of employees is already established. Death is assured.
Reservations have been lost. Ovens have broken down at dinnertime. Rain has washed weeks of worth away. Don’t take life too seriously.
And, to the guest who demanded to speak to the manager, RIGHT NOW! to complain that the kitchen staff was laughing too loudly — you cannot please everyone.
Peter has another goal that will consume much of his time in the future. He wants to create a foundation or other means to plant one million trees in Ecuador. His priorities seem to be in order.
“Ecuador is a little country surrounded by large countries. It is a simple place that deserves to be protected and encouraged to grow well. I like living in the second best place, a piece of the world where I know I will always have work to do.”