Wanderbus… or how to overcome a pandemic!

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It was the first hop-on, hop-off venture in Ecuador. For those who may not be familiar, it’s basically a bus ride that you can “hop off” from at any of its stops, stay as long as you like there, and then take again whenever it returns to the place where it left you.

After a successful start, in two and a half years of operation, the company had managed to take more than 4,000 passengers of up to 72 nationalities to many corners of the country. The route, in fact, was quite comprehensive: Puyo, Baños, Chimborazo, Quilotoa, Montañita, Puerto López, Mindo, Cuenca, Quito… I say “was” because, of course, the pandemic hit… and that was it for hop-on, hop-off in this country…

Like a bus during a pandemic

If anything sums up the pandemic’s toil on businesses around the world, it has been the urgent need for them to find new ways to adapt to a most unexpected situation. This adaptation process has been complex and many companies have failed in their efforts. Companies have had to re-evaluate their business models, find new ways to sell their products; some have even been forced to start completely anew; to the point of defining what it is they actually sell.

For many industries, Covid was a huge blow. But for the tourism industry, the blow was three times harder. Wanderbus literally had no more product to sell once the world closed. Who would even want to ride a tourist bus? Not even today, a year and a half after the start of the pandemic, would you comfortably share an enclosed space for hours on end traveling the Andes. To make things worse, the consumers of that product, foreign visitors to Ecuador, did not come for almost a entire year. That this company is still alive today is a true testament to creativity, vision and perseverance.

Experience providers

One of the key points of the tourist adventure of “exploring Ecuador by bus” was specifically what Wanderbus offered. It was not simply transportation to different parts of the country. Wanderbus could be that, of course, for anyone who needed to move from one corner of Ecuador to the other. But through the two years of operation, the company strengthened its connection with Ecuadorian rural like no other tourism agency in the country.

It offered its passengers the possibility of coming into contact with unique experiences that no one else even thought to promote. Visits to families living in huts in the coldest corners of the highlands, owners of endemic organic, eco farms, walks in forests protected by small communities… Wanderbus had earned a reputation of being able to take you where no one else would think of going.

Wanderbus’ CEO Nicolás Ponce at the forest community of Sarayaku, on the Bobonaza River (Pastaza).

When the pandemic, on March 15, closed the doors of almost all tourism ventures in the world, Nicolás Ponce, the company’s CEO, continued to promote its greatest asset: this connection with community-experience providers. Today, that bond between Wanderbus and those offering high-quality community tourism products is stronger than ever.

Through a cutting-edge online platform (check it out here and start planning a trip today), Wanderbus takes any potential visitor to the best of community and cultural tourism in Ecuador, through private experiences led by a team of local tourism experts. Excellent guides, the ease of putting together an itinerary that adjusts to your preferences from carefully designed packages to provide the most authentic version of Ecuador; that’s what has made this project a favorite of Ñan.

For communities, it is a luxury to be able to reach potential visitors who want to experience what they offer by just clicking on their website. All the tourism products offered seek to preserve the cultural heritage of the local communities as well as the nature that their territories protect. And for this reason, Wanderbus is the only tour operator in Ecuador with B Certification.

Close ties with important institutions and NGOs such as Emprende Turismo, GIZ, AEI or the United Nation’s UNDP vouch for this Ecuadorian company’s reputation. If someone left Wanderbus for dead after the pandemic, the opposite has happened. In July of this year, in the middle of a third wave of COVID-19 in Europe, Wanderbus was mentioned in the article “World’s Greatest Places 2021” by TIME magazine as a “company to contact” in Quito. Wanderbus also received the Best for the World 2021 recognition, awarded to only 5% of the companies with B certification in the world. It is the only company in Ecuador that has received this designation.

Look no further, Wanderbus has survived the pandemic in flying colors. It is one of Ecuador’s great examples of resilience.

If you want to design your own adventure in Ecuador, click here.

Photos courtesy of Wanderbus / main photo: Mijael Proaño

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