Guillermo Alcorta, Tourism Ambassador, speaks with DIÁRIO

The Presidential Interviews series, which began in February this year, retains its true birthmark: interviewing people with the depths of the open sea, the lightness of a chronicle and the freshness of novelty, of what has now arrived. Fábio Steinberg, a contributor to DIÁRIO, in this interview with Panrotas President Guillermo Alcorta, translates all this with the skill of the columnist and the special sensitivity of good journalists. Follow:


Adjectives such as quiet, peaceful, or accommodating are certainly not part of José Guillermo Condomí Alcorta’s dictionary. He is the founder of Panrotas, a publication aimed at the tourism market, but which has become the flagship of a rich ecosystem that today is a mandatory reference in the sector.

Always one step ahead of the trends, this Argentine dynamic from his father and Brazilian from his mother’s side manages with his sympathy and competence to represent the best of both nations in one person.

At the age of 83, three brothers, Guillermo has a very diverse trajectory of experiences. Born in Buenos Aires, he studied for 12 years at the Colegio Marista Champagnat. There he left a legion of friends who still meet at the end of each year.

There is no shortage of adventures in your life. As soon as he finishes high school, he is part of an expedition on the Argentine warship ARA Murature around the Valdez Peninsula. Also, as a hobby, he dived in Ilhabela, on the coast of São Paulo, after the wreck of the ship Príncipe de Asturias, which sank in 1916.

At the age of 18, he studied for a year at the Faculty of Architecture. Dissatisfied, he attends Engineering and Business Administration courses simultaneously for two years.

Two years later, during his compulsory military service, his passion for airplanes made him choose the Argentine Air Force because he was already a civilian and glider pilot.

Due to its maternal origin, Brazil has been a constant presence since childhood. He usually spends his summer holidays between São Paulo, Guarujá and Rio de Janeiro, always with his large Brazilian family. You have cousins ​​at your leisure. His grandfather, José Maria Whitaker, twice Minister of Finance, had 14 children – 3 boys and 11 girls. Guillermo, in turn, had three children, Maria Camilla, Marianna and José Guilherme, who gave him three grandchildren.

Childhood friends

Through its presence in Brazil, Alcorta establishes strong friendships that in 1971 will bring it closer to the tourism sector. This is due to a meeting nine years earlier in New York with two childhood friends studying in the country. One of them is the heir of Banco Andrade Arnaud, who invites him to run the travel agency of a company. The experience lasted four years, until Banco Halles, which had incorporated Andrade Arnaud, underwent government intervention.

In 1974, based on the market’s experience and needs and the relationship it gained with the airlines, Alcorta identified a business opportunity. He notes that travel agencies do not have a catalog of schedules and air fares for flights from Brazil. Thus was born the Panrotas Guide. These are heroic times, a time when everything is done by hand. There are no computers, no internet, no online bookings.

“Based on Pronta Referência’s English ABC (‘from-to’) system and my familiarity with math, engineering and administration, I started publishing the airline network of fare flights, section by section, on a monthly basis,” he recalls.

“In the beginning, the tariffs were calculated on an Olivetti machine with a crank. Data collected from airlines was written on magnetic cards by two IBM MC82 typewriters. Several operators for each piece of equipment added, excluding and modifying, in turn, sections, schedules and rates. I was extremely concerned about the accuracy, quality and timeliness of the information. Any mistake would be fatal, “he said.

hidden in the drawer

A year later, the Panrotas Guide – the forerunner of modern GDS – already has 1,000 signatures. Subsequently, the company began offering domestic fares to United and American Airlines. With headquarters in São Paulo and an office in Rio, the team reaches 100 people. An agreement with VASP makes it possible to have representatives in all locations served by the airline.

Despite the success, Alcorta is not satisfied. The keen sense of smell indicates that there are even more fronts to explore. During visits to travel agencies, he realizes that most directors, despite signing the Guide, are unfamiliar with the publication.

“I found out that Panrotas was on the airline’s desk, often hidden in a drawer. It worked as a kind of “weapon”, as a guarantee that only he will be able to fulfill the function “, laughs Guillermo.

It is necessary to circulate Panrotas throughout the agency. Then he decides to add an editorial part to the Guide. Includes text and photos of homeowners and professionals with industry news and events. The strategy works great. With the decision, the circulation reaches 15 thousand copies, with editions of up to 400 pages.

“It’s the golden age of publishing!” He says.

Faced with the great repercussions of including journalism in the Guide, in 1977 he decided to adopt the model at the ABAV Congress in Curitiba. Thus, the Panrotas da ABAV Journal appears daily, with news about what happens during the meeting. For this, in the hotel where the team is staying, there is an editorial office, a traveling photo laboratory and a pre-press. From eight, the publication reaches 64 pages in years. Success is repeated in the events of the next forty years.

Guillermo Alcorta (Credit: Emerson de Souza – Panrotas)

New products

In the late 1980s, Alcorta created another publication. It is a Brazilian Overview, published annually in English to this day. It introduces the country and its tourism industry to the international market. Another successful champion.

Always looking to the future, the entrepreneur realizes that the absolute paper dynasty is dying out. That’s why it’s about making the transition to the internet. In June 2000, he created the Panrotas Portal. With an immediate update, as the new times demand, the project proves to be another right decision. Today there are 24,000 unique users per day, peaking at 50,000 to 100,000 visitors.

But it doesn’t stop there. With a focus on increasingly representing the sector and creating opportunities for reflection and updating, the Panrotas Forum was born in 2003. “There are two days of inspiration and training in an event that allows us to assess trends, rethink and we are renewing – something unprecedented and unparalleled on the market “, he explains.

Speaking of new times, the founder and president of Panrotas not only prepares his son José Guilherme, but also promotes him to the position of CEO of the company. That doesn’t mean he’s thinking of hanging up his boots. Away from. In addition to a head full of ideas, this Argentine who became a Brazilian citizen in 1997 has an enviable physical vigor. The day we spoke, he had just walked more than three miles on the streets of São Paulo, which is common in his routine. But even less than the 7 kilometers that are usually your daily average.

no retirement

In addition, his love for airplanes, places and people makes his schedule always full of travel. Today he could be in São Paulo, tomorrow in Buenos Aires, the next day in Orlando for IPW, and then who knows anywhere on the planet that his infinite energy and curiosity demands.

For this reason, it is impossible for Guillermo to talk about retirement. His departure from the routine operation only frees up more time to do what he loves most: to germinate new projects. For example, Matcher, which opens at Fortaleza in 2019. “Apart from Panrotas, the event aims to show Brazil, its products and its attractions to international buyers. They come from the big markets at our invitation, to do business with Brazilian suppliers “, he explains.

Despite the huge success, Matcher had to be shut down due to the pandemic and the unfavorable international situation for tourism. “I do not give up hope that he will return soon, as soon as favorable conditions allow,” he said.

The risk does not always go hand in hand with success. After all, only those who try to make mistakes. Guillermo Alcorta’s life is the best proof. You know that every time one door closes, another will inevitably open. “I learned from my mistakes,” is his laconic comment. He just prefers to spend his inexhaustible enthusiasm talking about what works and especially what is to come.

With this profile, it is natural to have become, in fact and in law, an ambassador of Brazilian tourism. This is your great merit. It can be explained: we are talking about a trade that in Brazil is characterized by fragmented interest groups. The miracle of union really takes place only under the wings of its founder, who may even be confused with the company he created.

The greatest proof of his personal prestige can be seen at any travel fair. There is no one who does not want to go to the Panrotas stand. Either to be seen, to meet people, to have a coffee, or with a little luck to be photographed near the founder.

nothing alone

What is the secret to such success? “First of all, I learned that you can’t do anything alone. Without cooperation and helpful to others, no one lends a helping hand. ” Said by anyone else, it might sound like a slogan. But not when it comes to Guillermo Alcorta.

Just look at the team. There are people like Artur Luiz Andrade, editor-in-chief of publications, Heloisa Prass, marketing director, Ricardo Sidaras, head of sales, Ricardo Tsugawa, head of IT. There are also valuable collaborators such as Artur Salvador Neto, who did the technical part of the Guide with great quality until he left the company, or Emerson de Souza, who started 26 years ago as an office boy and today deals with Panrotas’ photographs. In common, everyone has been very motivated to walk with Alcorta for decades.

This is explained for a reason. Despite the exponential growth, the company remains familiar, but in a sui generis way. Due to the human touch and the professional respect established by the founder, all participants feel part of it. This happens either by blood ties or by affinity of targets, it doesn’t matter.

Guillermo’s mission is neither easy nor complete. As he himself acknowledges, the needs of tourism in Brazil persist. The activity must be effectively recognized by the government, due to its economic power, inclusion potential and job creation.

Challenges are part of its history. You don’t have to be afraid to make mistakes when you try. After all, with a lot of observation, a sense of opportunity and a good dose of courage, he turned Panrotas from a timetable and flight guide into a communications, marketing and event solutions company for the tourism industry.

The brand’s constant innovation over these four decades is one of the main reasons for its success. How was this possible? In the words of Guillermo Alcorta:

“I have never seen novelty as an obstacle. On the contrary. This has always worked for me as an incentive, because that’s where the great achievements come from. “

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