The Presidential Interviews series, which began in February of this year, maintains its true desire: to interview people with the depth of a deep sea, with the lightness of a chronicle and with the freshness of novelty, of what has now arrived. Fábio Steinberg, collaborator of DIÁRIO, in this interview with the president of Panrotas, Guillermo Alcorta, translates all this with the skill of the reporter and with the peculiar sensitivity of good journalists. To follow:
Adjectives like calm, peaceful or easy going are definitely 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 an obligatory reference in the sector.
Always a step ahead of trends, this dynamic Argentine on his father’s side and Brazilian on his mother’s side manages with his sympathy and competence to represent the best of both nations in one person.
In his 83 years, three brothers, Guillermo has a highly diversified background of experiences. Born in Buenos Aires, he studied for 12 years at the Colegio Marista Champagnat. There he left a legion of friends who to this day 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 sinking of the ship Príncipe de Asturias, which sank in 1916.
At 18 he studied for a year at the Faculty of Architecture. Dissatisfied, he attended both Engineering and Business Administration at the same time for two years.
His passion for airplanes led him, two years later, during his compulsory military service, to choose the Argentine Air Force because he was already a civilian and glider pilot.
Due to the maternal origin, Brazil has been a constant presence since childhood. He usually spends his summer holidays in São Paulo, Guarujá and Rio de Janeiro, always with his large Brazilian family. You have cousins at ease. His grandfather, José Maria Whitaker, twice finance minister, had 14 children: 3 boys and 11 girls. In turn, Guillermo had three children, Maria Camilla, Marianna and José Guilherme, who bore him three grandchildren.
It is through his presence in Brazil that Alcorta establishes strong bonds of friendship which in 1971 will bring him closer to the tourism sector. This is thanks to a meeting nine years earlier in New York with two childhood friends who are studying in the country. One of them is the heir of Banco Andrade Arnaud, who invites him to run a tourist agency of a company. The experience lasted four years, until Banco Halles, which had incorporated Andrade Arnaud, underwent the intervention of the federal government.
In 1974, thanks to the experience of the market and its needs and the relationship acquired with the airlines, Alcorta identifies a business opportunity. He notes that travel agencies do not have a catalog with timetables and air fares for flights to Brazil. Thus was born the Panrotas Guide. These are heroic times, in a time when everything is done by hand. There are still no PCs, no internet, not to mention online bookings.
“Based on the English ABC (” from-to “) system of Pronta Referência and my familiarity with mathematics, engineering and administration, we have started to publish monthly the air network of flights with fares, section by section” , remember.
“At the beginning the rates were calculated on an Olivetti crank machine. The data collected by the airlines was written on magnetic cards by two IBM MC82 typewriters. Two operators for each device took turns adding, excluding and modifying routes, timetables and fares. I was extremely concerned about the accuracy, quality and timeliness of the information. Any mistake would be fatal ”, he continues.
hidden in the drawer
After a year, the Panrotas Guide – forerunner of modern GDSs – already counts 1,000 signatures. The airline later began providing domestic fares for United and American Airlines. Headquartered in Sao Paulo and an office in Rio, the team reaches 100 people. An agreement with VASP allows you 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. On visits to travel agencies, he realizes that most of the directors, while signing the Guide, are unfamiliar with the publication.
“I discovered that the Panrota was on the desk of the airline ticket issuer, often hidden in the drawer. It worked as a kind of “weapon”, guaranteeing that only he would be able to perform the function, ”laughs Guillermo.
It is necessary to circulate the Panrota throughout the agency. It is then that he decides to add an editorial part to the Guide. It includes texts and photos of the owners and professionals, with news and events of the sector. The strategy works great. With the resolution, the circulation reaches 15 thousand copies, with runs of up to 400 pages.
“It’s the golden age of publishing!” He says.
Faced with the great backlash of the inclusion of journalism in the Guide, in 1977 he decided to adopt the model at the ABAV Congress in Curitiba. This is how the Jornal Panrotas from ABAV appears daily, with news of what happens during the meeting. For this reason, an editorial office, an itinerant photographic laboratory and pre-press are set up inside the hotel where the team is staying. From eight, the publication reaches 64 pages over the years. Success is repeated in the events of the next forty years.
At the end of the 80s Alcorta creates another publication. It is the Brazilian Overview, published annually in English to date. It introduces the country and its tourism industry to the international market. Another successful champion.
Always with an eye to the future, the entrepreneur realizes that the absolute dynasty of paper is running out. That’s why it’s about making the switch to the Internet. In June 2000 he created the Panrotas Portal. With an immediate update, as the new times require, the project turns out to be another right decision. Today there are 24,000 unique users per day, with peaks of 50,000 to 100,000 visitors.
But it doesn’t stop there. With the concern of increasingly representing the sector and creating opportunities for reflection and updating, the Panrotas Forum was born in 2003. “These are two days of inspiration and training in an event that allows us to evaluate trends, rethink and renew, something unprecedented and unprecedented 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 CEO of the company. This does not mean that you plan to hang your boots on the spikes. Far from it. 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 kilometers through the streets of Sao Paulo, a common occurrence in his routine. But even less than the 7 kilometers which is usually your daily average.
In addition, his love for planes, places and people makes his schedule always packed with travel. Today he could be in Sao Paulo, tomorrow in Buenos Aires, the next day in Orlando for the IPW, and then who knows anywhere on the planet that his infinite energy and curiosity require.
For this reason it is impossible to speak of retirement for Guillermo. His departure from the routine operation only frees up more time to do what he loves most: sprouting new projects. For example Matcher, which opens in Fortaleza in 2019. “In addition to 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 enormous success, Matcher had to be stopped due to the pandemic and the international situation not conducive to tourism. “I do not give up hope that he will come back soon, as soon as favorable conditions allow it,” he says.
Risk doesn’t always go hand in hand with success. After all, only those who try to make mistakes. The life of Guillermo Alcorta is the best proof of this. You know that every time one door closes, another one will inevitably open. “I learned from my mistakes”, is his laconic comment. It’s just that he prefers to spend his inexhaustible enthusiasm to talk about what works, and especially what is yet to come.
With this profile, it is natural that he became, 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 only happens under the wings of its founder, who can also be confused with the company he created.
The greatest proof of his personal prestige can be seen at any tourism fair. There is no one who does not want to at least stop at the Panrotas stand. Whether it’s to be seen, to meet people, to have a coffee, or with a little luck to be photographed next to the founder.
What is the secret of such success? “In the first place, I learned that you cannot do anything on your own. Without collaborating and being useful to others, no one lends a hand “. From anyone else, it might sound like a slogan. But not when it comes to Guillermo Alcorta.
Just look at the team. They are people like Artur Luiz Andrade, editor-in-chief of publications, Heloisa Prass, marketing director, Ricardo Sidaras, head of the commercial part, Ricardo Tsugawa, head of IT. There are also valid collaborators such as Artur Salvador Neto, who carried out the technical part of the Guide with immense quality until he left the company, or Emerson de Souza, who started 26 years ago as an apprentice and today takes care of the photographs of Panrotas. In common, for decades everyone has been very motivated to walk alongside Alcorta.
This is explained for a reason. Despite the exponential growth, the company remains familiar, but in a sui generis way. Thanks to the human touch and professional respect established by the founder, all participants feel part of it. This happens whether by blood ties or by affinity for goals, it doesn’t matter.
Guillermo’s mission is neither easy nor complete. As he himself acknowledges, the needs of tourism in Brazil persist. The business must be effectively recognized by the government, due to its economic strength, potential for inclusion and job creation.
Challenges are part of its history. You don’t have to be afraid of making mistakes when you try. After all, with a lot of observation, a sense of opportunity and a good dose of courage, he transformed Panrotas from a flight schedule and fare guide into a communications, marketing and event solutions company for the tourism industry.
The constant innovation of the brand 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 considered novelty as an obstacle. On the contrary. This has always worked as an incentive for me, because that’s where the great results come from ”.
John Rodgerson, president of Azul Linhas Aéreas: “we are a country of opportunity, but expensive for air operations”