EE045 – Monica Irauzqui – Experience More

Monica Irauzqui is the Vice President and co-founder of Yampu Tours, a company she started 21 years ago with her husband. Her travel experience comes from firsthand knowledge travelling around the globe

Some of the topics discussed include:

  • The father and son Monica met in Peru while travelling and how she saved them from a catastrophe.
  • The clients who went to visit Egypt and then invited the guide to visit them in the USA, he did.
  • How making a “Pack for a Purpose” community helped her clients forge relationships with the people of the country and in turn strengthened their relationships with the clients.
  • Sending clients a cake in the country for a birthday and to celebrate an accomplishment like the Inca Trail and their reactions
  • How getting to know what they love, and making that happen exceeds expectations.
  • How putting their needs first can earn you a client for life
Podcast Guest Culture Matters March 2019
Top 10 Adventure Trips in South America, Meet the Experts Talk, LA Times
2014 Panalist New York Times Travel Show on Luxury and Adventure in Patagonia
2014 Speaker at London Destinations Show ” How to plan a trip to Africa”
2013 Speaker on Costa Rica Adventure and Luxury at London Destinations Show
New York Times Travel Show Speaker; The Hottest Destinations in Central & South America
New York Times Travel Show featured speaker in the ‘Discover Adventure: Emerging Destinations in Central & South America Travel’ seminar
Recipient of 8 World Travel Awards
How to reach


(All transcriptions are done using through a system of artificial intelligence and so on EVERY episode there are quite a few mistakes as AI is far from perfect when it comes to transcribing the human voice. However, it is a very time-consuming process to go through each transcript and correct all the errors. For quite a while I had the transcribed docs sitting on my hard drive in the belief that one day I would eventually get around to correcting all the errors and could then upload each transcript to the show notes for each episode. The reality is that isn’t gonna happen for quite a while as I simply do not have sufficient time to be able to do that. So please accept my apologies for the number of errors but I hope that these transcripts are in some way useful to you.)

[00:00:00] Exceeding expectations episode 45.

[00:00:04] Welcome to the podcast where we give you ideas on how you can give amazing experiences to your customers which ends up getting you better referrals reviews recommendations and re bookings. This week’s episode is with Monica at our ski. She’s a travel agent and she organizes trips all around the world especially to places in South America and predominantly Peru. And she tells us that some of the experiences that she’s helped some of her customers have when they’ve been booking trips with her. If you enjoyed his podcast why not share it with people who you think may get value from some of the information on the episodes. It will be great if you could leave a review for us and just tell other people about the podcast. That would be fantastic. Hope you enjoy this week’s episode. Exceeding expectations and my guest this week is Monica Irauzqui. Did I. Did I say that right Monica. Yes. Fantastic. I was planning on getting names are not you you over in L.A. area has things over there.

[00:01:15] Oh beautiful beautiful sunny day five degrees. Just like they like it. Isn’t that sort of normal everyday over there. Actually we’ve had a cold winter this year but there was a lot of snow in northern California. They’ve got snow in Arizona this year. Like in Vegas. So it’s been a weird winter. So Monica you run a travel company. Yes.

[00:01:43] Yea for tourists is our company. And we started in 1998.

[00:01:48] What was it that got you in today. How did that come about. My husband and I when we first met were looking to start a business and.

[00:01:59] We loved to travel. And we went to much Picchu together and there weren’t a lot of companies selling Peru at that time. And we thought you know and the Internet was just sort of coming to to age where you could start your own business easily. So we got some travel professionals and you know. Started researching and started our company that year and we started with Peru. We added every country in South America and then we added Central America Asia Africa. And now we’re doing most of the world.

[00:02:41] And so as a travel company. How easy or difficult is it to differentiate yourself.

[00:02:48] There’s a lot of competition.

[00:02:49] We sell tours which means we rebook everything for a client the flights transfers hotels all the experiences permits buses trains just everything. And we package in. Package it for the clients. So they get a nice value. And. But with the Internet every year becoming stronger and stronger. It’s so funny to probably hear me or somebody young is hearing me say that I grew up with the Internet but. There is more and more competition there is online booking engines like Expedia. There’s there’s many many travel companies. And so yes it’s been it’s been quite a ride differentiating ourselves from everyone else that’s out there. What is it that you do it’s different to say all the other companies providing toys and so well about 10 years ago American Express said.

[00:03:57] Several things happened about 10 maybe 12 years ago. We started getting a lot of competition and I was looking at what’s out there and I made a rule with my my sales team that every time they go to a country. Let’s say they’re going to prove to see Machu Picchu. I want them to come home from Peru where they liked Machu Picchu. But they love the people they love the food they love everything about the country. And so it becomes more of an experience and that was before experience was a big word but I wanted them to have authentic experiences. And so we made a rule that no matter what the budget you have to put something that differentiates us from everyone else out there something where they experience more of the country and more deeply in the people especially the people. And then at the same time Amex had sent us me a book. Called hug your client and I read this book and I loved this book because it was all about just doing everything you can. Just like in the book the title says hugging your client. And that became a mantra for us because each and every client that we hugged. Now 10 years later 90 percent of our our bookings are repeats and referrals. And so when you’re starting out with this philosophy it’s seems like a lot of work. But I’m here as a testimony that it does work. Taking really really good care of your clients lets your clients do the work for you because marketing is so overwhelming these days. You’ve got social media you’ve got pay per click. You’ve got news letters and e-mails and get it PR. It’s just it’s just you know if you’re in a business to do the business my business is travel it’s hard to think of all those other things and competing in that huge realm of possibilities of marketing.

[00:06:20] So by Justin doing a good job at what I love and treating people like they’re my friends and and taking care of them and hugging them that they’re doing the marketing for me. It’s great.

[00:06:36] It’s a great win win situation and something that you said a few minutes ago about you know your kind of philosophy is you’re the people that you hire when they go out to someone I met you issue you want them to give the people that an amazing experience and to everyone to have to get on with each other. That suggests you have to be really careful about who you choose to be you your two operators and the people that are working for you or maybe give them a lot of training and how is it you go about that.

[00:07:04] That’s that’s that’s true. We do. We don’t cut corners so we can always do things cheaper but we really you know are looking for clients who are going to come in on a minimum budget and then we are able to get the best training the best people the best cars the best guides. And and really work with them because anybody can do something you know cheaply but to deliver quality you have to be able to spend the money that gets you quality.

[00:07:50] I know you’ve got a philosophy of something that we’ve talked about before we started recording about not cutting corners and doing it. Tell us about that.

[00:08:00] So what we’re doing is when when we’re a booking for a client work we’re putting everything into our packages.

[00:08:07] So one time I was in Peru and I met this lady and she was pregnant and she had just come out of a 20 hour bus ride from Lima to Cusco and a tour operator American tour operator I won’t say the name but an American tour operator had done this to her and I was just like how why would you do if she was pregnant. And that’s the kind of thing where you know cutting corners. I mean it’s not that expensive for a slight and and you’re there in an hour and a half you know.

[00:08:43] So why would you take a 20 and you know and a lot of us have very minimal vacation days anyway so cutting corners may look like on paper you’re saving money from the beginning but then once you get there and you start having to add things on yourselves or you’re going through you’ve wasted two days to get to somewhere that you could have taken an hour’s flight you know it’s in the end the opportunity cost is huge for making a mistake like that.

[00:09:17] So with our clients you know every and we try to include everything as possible for example and end in getting between city to city if we’re doing everything from the beginning for the client then we’re able to set up logical routes that saves them time and money because we have contacts with the airlines and we can book the the aircraft to go I don’t wanna get too technical but the point is is that we’re always looking for ways to make the trip that value because we still we still are value conscious because everybody has limited travel budget but we don’t want to cut corners to deliver that value. So I mean I’m going to pick a hotel that is very cute. It’s in the right neighbourhood and you’re going to get the right kind of service.

[00:10:13] I’m not going to save you 20 dollars to get you a hotel that’s in the wrong neighbourhood that that you know that makes you uncomfortable. You have to walk up a big hill to get to you know or there’s not a good not good giving our clients good service.

[00:10:34] Suggest that you have to really get to the locations that you offer in travel to. You have to really get to know the hotel was good and not so good and and then how it’s the best way to get in there and so on.

[00:10:46] Yeah. We spent a lot of time the best the best salespeople I have had been with me for 10 and 12 years.

[00:10:55] And our job is never ending because there’s always something new and and and hotels maybe good one year and then the next year they’re run by a different company and they’re not good next year.

[00:11:08] So our business is always one of getting to know. Always learning and always applying what we know to what the clients need.

[00:11:22] I know you’ve done you talked about Machu Picchu and you’ve done some of. You do some trip city in courtrooms.

[00:11:29] Yes yes we do the Inca trail. We also have entrepreneurs who has the Inca trails interesting because the Incas had many many trials and they’re in Peru and Bolivia and Ecuador and so the trails that we use especially in Peru. One is that you trail and it can be done in one or four days and then there’s other trails to the south and tie the Flores. A lot of people are trekking to Rainbow Mountain these days. So yeah we get to know the clients and what they want and if they’re comfortable with tents or would they rather be in a mountain hut in a real bed with a nice dinner and I’m depending on what the clients want. What book then the right trail.

[00:12:21] And is that is Peru since America is still a big big part of your business.

[00:12:26] Yeah I’d say South America is least 40 percent of our business. It was you know the one we’ve been doing the longest and and where we’re all passionate about South America. My husband is actually from Peru.

[00:12:44] So that’s why I tend to go out of our Peru and Laura that all the other countries.

[00:12:49] Yeah I’ve been thinking that I should go and said there’s a bike ride I forget where is it somewhere in the Andes which goes down into the Amazon. I’ve been thinking about doing it.

[00:13:02] Is that the most dangerous road in Bolivia.

[00:13:05] I know nice business started in Bolivia. I’m under the impression it starts in Peru in and the Andes in Peru.

[00:13:13] Oh I see and it goes down so I must go down to two more now from Cusco. Yeah yeah.

[00:13:22] I can’t remember the details now but it sounded interesting. You should do that.

[00:13:26] Of all of the trips that you offer which is I mean how many of them have you done in which is your favourite one.

[00:13:32] Well top top ten list I have done almost every country that we sell.

[00:13:41] And my top 10 list is. So if somebody wants to go to South America I always send into cruise first because Peru culturally is is so different especially in the Andes and the Amazon. I mean I think we have here in the United States or Europe. So and the people in Peru are very service conscious. They are very they want to Cates you there was a country that wants to place you the most.

[00:14:12] I always send people to Peru first in South America Patagonia the beaches of Brazil. Colombia is the most unique and different and the new upcoming country.

[00:14:24] I love Africa. I love Botswana Kenya and Zambia planning an African safari for me makes my day in Asia all of Southeast Asia Myanmar and Thailand Vietnam.

[00:14:42] I love those countries.

[00:14:46] Italy is one of my favourite countries in the world. I can go to Italy 20 times and not have seen and done everything I wanted to do that before we were talking you you mentioned about how solving problems creates clients for life.

[00:15:00] You and sir tell us about them solving problems.

[00:15:02] One of the things that I would recommend is if you if you’re in the kind of business that you customers need you all the time make sure that we have a 24 hour number and the one really important thing about this is to make sure the person who is manning the 24 hour number has the ability and the knowledge to be a fast responder. So if you’re just putting like a call centre in charge of your 24 hour number that’s not something I would recommend. So there is a story.

[00:15:34] Now there was this one guy that was with his family in Patagonia and he was in tourist Alpine which is in the very south of Chile and it’s the park is actually five hours from the airport to arrange it. So the guy calls in at midnight and he talks to actually the owner of the company had the emergency phone that day and he says there’s a strike and I need to get out of here. And he was in a tented camp in tourist pine hose say the owner of the company. Got on the phone with the airlines. And at midnight rerouted him through Argentina.

[00:16:20] He changed his local flight to instead of leaving from the south of Chile. There’s another town that takes five hours to get to in Argentina. And he arranged for the client to fly out of there. He even got to see more beautiful things like the Peruvian Moreno Glacier which is the only glacier that’s still growing. And you got to see where this hour is because instead of flying back into Chile you flew to where desirous and his Internet they changed this international flight to fly out of warning sirens. So wakes up in the morning and all this is done. And handled and he set. So he wrote us a letter when it came back to the states and he said that other passengers who’d booked with an online agency that didn’t have someone to call got stuck for a week because what happened was only the first people who reacted the fastest were able to start to scoop up the seats that were still available that day.

[00:17:18] So the other people had to stay in Patagonia for a week because the strike had had barricaded the road and no one to get to puta arraignments. And also if your client probably didn’t even realize that the Argentina side was that close you know. Or all these clients in this camp. You know they tend to just just go and sometimes they don’t know that that’s even an option. So that’s that’s an example of how you know solving problems is you know is is very important and then he came back and he wrote This is wonderful review it’s on our Web site and he’s one of our clients that are coming every year to do a new trip with us and giving us lots of referrals which is at this point 20 years in is is helping us with all our marketing because the clients are doing no better marketers than your clients.

[00:18:16] And it sounds like you’ve really taken somebody’s ideas and our clients out because you’re really Guyam beyond what is expected of him. Are do any other things I do anything you can remember from that book that really stand down.

[00:18:30] I teach seminars to my staff on on trust and taking care of clients you know. And one of the things I don’t know if it’s in the book or not but handling complaints and learning from mistakes you know is very important.

[00:18:51] So most clients if you’re if you’re upset about something you don’t have anyone to talk to or you’ll email and you’ll get like a formal letter back. Right. With us though we feel like the more difficult the client the more we can learn you know.

[00:19:11] And one of my sales people got a letter from someone who is upset about something and I I’m not criticizing the sales person because I am kind of like this too sometimes where you know somebody you know makes you feel upset and then you spiral and you get nothing done this. So she she didn’t deal with it and nobody at the company knew this was going on. Well then the clink got really upset. So one of the things that I recommend is when a client complains you get back to them immediately. And then I made a rule that if if you’re trying to solve so sometimes you know maybe something got messed up and we’ll try to like get some money back for the client. You know we’re going to try to make a resolution where clients come out happy. So but that takes time because you have to go back and forth on emails and phone calls. And so it’s good to keep in contact with the client every day until you get this situation solved. So that was something that that did get out of hand. But I I personally learned and then I spread what I learned to everyone in the company and that’s what we do when we get letters from clients. We said it to everyone in the company because a lot of people in our company have their hands in each and every booking you know so they learn what clients like they learn what clients don’t like and then and then we. So that’s now 21 years in we really got the details refined and is less and less things they don’t like because we’re we’re taking it seriously and learning from it. One time I had this client who got upset with me because. Of a long drive.

[00:20:58] It was the week between Christmas and New Year’s and I had taken that drive many times it was three hours. And I didn’t even think about it when I was planning the trip and she had teenagers you know if you make a teenager upset they really have a way to get under mom’s skin you know. So the drive ended up being six hours double the time because it was Friday between Christmas and New Year’s and everyone was going to the beach from Lima. So she was really upset with me. And now every time there’s a holiday and I have a client doing a drive I ask is this going to take longer because of this date.

[00:21:44] That was a mistake that I made because I am not perfect and a delight. I hope that learning from her is helping you know our other clients get a better a better experience.

[00:21:56] And it also sounds like from what you were saying. But by getting to really know your clients and what they love best resulted in some other things that you were talking about before.

[00:22:04] Yes. That’s the that’s one of the funnest parts of our our job is learning what people love and then making it just perfect. I have one client who doesn’t like to move before 9 30.

[00:22:18] And and that’s that’s different because most clients want to be seeing as much as they can every day they’re up in the morning early and they may take flight early or they’re out on an excursion early.

[00:22:32] And for this guy I have to make sure his flights are like because he doesn’t want to leave though total 932 his flight can’t be after 12 His excursions are usually in the afternoon or late morning.

[00:22:46] And so I make sure that everything runs on the timing that we want. I have another guy who I met I actually met him travelling and this also I got to know what he loves. But it’s also about expectations because that’s a big thing to me is setting up the right expectations. And I met him and his father in the Amazon.

[00:23:11] We were in Tambo part of Peru and it’s an hour flight from Cusco and then an hour and a half on a little boat to get to this lodge.

[00:23:22] And when I met them we were just about to get on the boat and he was talking about how he was going to take pictures of a Jaguar and I was shaking my head thinking what sales person told this guy he was going to see Jaguar you know because it’s very hard to see each they’re there.

[00:23:42] It’s very hard to see them especially in the Amazon who’s the Amazon is so dense and people can can really move.

[00:23:50] And I actually had picked up the little card that he dropped out of his passport that he needed to get back on the flight. So I gave it to him and he was very grateful. We went on this trip and I saw them several times and they actually did see a Jaguar at a rescue centre.

[00:24:10] So I was a little lesson on not being too cynical.

[00:24:15] Anyway I had these guys we made a friendship.

[00:24:19] And after that they started booking with me but these guys what they do is they they love animals and they go and they take pictures of animals and then the father who’s a teacher takes and makes a painting of the animals that they’ve taken pictures of.

[00:24:37] And then he puts them in a calendar and then they give the money to a leprosy home in Ecuador. So this was a really nice friendship to make. Because now I buy their calendars and send them to my client. So I’m also helping the home in Ecuador and I’m helping my clients. So it’s it’s a beautiful kind of win win situation. And then my clients are getting something that’s special and not something you know that I bought from China.

[00:25:09] So anyway the guys love animals and so I’ve sent them to Patagonia Costa Rica and Finland and it’s always fun to find them just the right places where there’s not a lot of people and they’re able to get these animal experiences and photographs that they want.

[00:25:31] Their last trip they went to Finland and we caught them and overnight in a bear blind ad they were up in the bear blind for the whole night and they saw three or four six to seven hundred pound Bears walk across and they got nice photos and they actually wrote a blog on our Web site.

[00:25:54] So that’s that’s one example of you know really just really what people love.

[00:26:01] Another example is there’s this woman who loves Jiro Dreams of Sushi. You heard of that. It’s a Netflix show about an older gentleman named Jiro who’s a chef in Japan. And he has a restaurant and to get a seat in this restaurant is impossible. People call me all the time and say Can I Can I get a reservation. I’ll go with you if I can get a reservation. Shira so I told the woman I cannot promise you I can’t get a reservation.

[00:26:35] Jiro Jiro is over 90 years old. He’s sometimes he’s healthy. He’s in the kitchen. Sometimes he has health problems. So it’s really not something I can promise but what I do promise client is that I’m going to try my hardest to do what you know to get them regret the experience that they want. So every day I was asking everybody you know can we get a reservation to Jiro. Also they don’t like these small Japanese restaurants that are really famous. They don’t like tour operators. They they they they might you might be a really good concierge be able to get the reservation so I was calling her concierge calling everybody I could. Also a personal recommendation can sometimes get you to a calling. Everyone I could. And finally not taking no for an answer.

[00:27:33] I was able to get her on a special experience full tour where this does not happen every day. But we were just lucky because we tried so hard that she was able to go in and meet Jiro take pictures with him have dinner there. And it was really a dream come true.

[00:27:54] It’s all over her social media. So that was to me I felt so happy that I was able to do that for her and see her smile. And and she was over the moon about it. So these are the kind of things that you know we’re always trying to exceed people’s. So we had to set up the proper expectation. I had to say I can’t promise you that. That’s very difficult you know. And I really didn’t think I was going to get it but I just tried so hard and just wouldn’t take no for an answer I kept kept pushing and pushing pushing until I was lucky that I got this opportunity for her.

[00:28:38] Because it was 90 years old and she got a raise.

[00:28:41] I don’t know how much longer he’s gonna be able to work this hard.

[00:28:45] You’re living truthfully by having the mindset of trying to deliver and give customers a great experience that you get a lot more pieces from it. I mean what were your general thoughts on why businesses should think about doing this as a strategy.

[00:29:00] I did business because I. I’m doing something that I love and making people happy is something that I love. And so when you’re doing something you love you know it’s not about money all the time it’s about happiness you know. It’s about sitting at your desk and doing something that makes you happy. As far as businesses are concerned if your clients are happy and I know I’m a testimony of this because spending you know 10 to 12 years that we decided we would do what ever we had to do to make clients happy like they could not. It’s the most important thing. We are a client centred company that is our mantra and doing this now 10 years later 90 percent of our business is repeats and referrals and that saves us so much money and marketing because and also our employees. When you’re when you’re handling a repeat client or a referral they didn’t you you get you already have the trust in gaining people’s trust.

[00:30:12] That’s why I do talks on trust because it’s the hardest thing an Internet company can do you know is to get people’s trust.

[00:30:21] So when you’re working with repeats or referrals you already have the trust and so you can spend your time refining details that make their experience the best.

[00:30:35] If you have to spend your time gaining their trust then you don’t have time to do the actual things that produces the quality product.

[00:30:44] So when you know you’ve you’ve spoken in quite a few different places around the world which was it you normally speak in about.

[00:30:50] I’m always thinking about travel. I have spoken about the best adventure destinations in South America. I’ve spoken about culture getting the best cultural experience in Peru. I’ve spoken about the luxury options in Patagonia and also luxury Costa Rica. I’ve spoken about how to plan an African safari and what I love to because when people call up and say I want going to Africa that’s this just like a huge that’s just a huge thing that can go any way depending on how you’re who you’re talking to.

[00:31:33] So it’s kind of teaching the clients what questions to ask or what questions to ask themselves.

[00:31:42] So that they’re booking the right thing because an African safari is a big investment. It’s one of the like. It’s one of your big trips you’ll take in your lifetime. And knowing what questions to ask yourself so that you can talk better to the the person that you’re working with to do the booking to that that was a real fun one that I spoke about. So yeah. And I I like the travel shows because I have a show slides with the photos because I depend on that a lot from my descriptions you know beautiful colours and people smiling and animals and you know great landscapes.

[00:32:20] It’s fun to speak about that and show the pictures and then they’ll come to my booth you know and then we talk more in person.

[00:32:28] If people want to find out more about yam poo where would they go time and again.

[00:32:32] So we have a Web site. It’s why a m like Mary P U dot com dot com and you could just go out there. There’s always somebody there chatting. You can call us. You can email us info at yahoo dot com.

[00:32:50] And I. I’m on. Monica Irauzqui experiences on Instagram.

[00:32:56] But we will put those links in the initial notes so on your MP dot com to you. Is it just American clients or do you have clients from other countries as well.

[00:33:06] Oh yes. We have plans from all over the world. We work and work.

[00:33:10] Clients a lot. Lot of clients from Singapore and Hong Kong. We have also valued clients. So yeah it’s a great thing about being an online agency is that our clients are from all over the world. We’re sitting here all over the world.

[00:33:28] Fantastic. Okay. Well all of that all the information will be included in the Shauna. And really appreciate your time when it go and best of luck with your business.

[00:33:37] Okay. Thank you very much.

[00:33:43] Next week is episode 46 where Vikram Rajan and it’s a fascinating episode because Vikram has a company who helps you with Do you ever have trouble with trying to think of blog posts or trying to think of what to say. For video blogs we all told that we need to be doing blogging on a regular basis to be doing video blogging on a regular basis which helps which helps with our social media search engine rankings and so on. And Vikram has some quite unique strategies to really help you when you are struggling to think what to write what to say and to present it in a way that you don’t feel bad about. Oh that was terrible. I need to do that again. He really helps people through the whole process and makes it much easier. So that’s next week’s episode where Vissa Vikram Rajan. Hope you enjoy this week’s episode. And please do leave a review for us. The episode and have a great week. See you next week.

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