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The Viva Story - Part 3: Viva today

Tara Sutherland

Tara Sutherland  |  6 May 2020

Find out how the incredible Viva story continued!

Continued from Part 2: The Beginning

 

Hola! I'm Tara, and I am the operations manager here at Viva.

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Just over 6 years ago I saw a job advertisement looking for a “Latin American Travel Specialist.” I thought  “Hey, that is me!” and having met Rachel previously at various travel shows, I really loved what she was doing…and thirdly…I had already seen Viva’s awesome Wild Patagonia tour itinerary and I really wanted to go!

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Soon after, I was over at Rachel’s house, Rio was still a wee baby and Rachel was breast-feeding him of the sofa while we went over the contract.  Then she was like, “Here, hold my baby. Okay now, sign the contract here”. A little crazy, a little unconventional, but that I would learn is kind of how we roll at Viva.

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I set up my home office and set about managing the tour arrangements for all of Viva's clients. Back then this meant preparing spreadsheets with costings and manually typing up itineraries in Microsoft Word. Rachel and I would meet up at home, or at the local coffee shop to plan our next move.

Soon it became evident that there was a lot of demand for Travel to Latin America & Antarctica, and that we needed more help and a modern reservation system. Over the following years Viva grew its team of destination and marketing specialists, from two (Me & Rach) to 15, so we could help our growing following of keen travellers with their Latin America travel dreams.

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We joined forces with another great team of Latin America & Antarctica Travel Specialists based in Australia and were able to embark on some very exciting projects. Together we renovated an old mansion in Lima, Peru. Converting it to a beautiful 22 room boutique 4* hotel, known as Casa Republica. We spread our wings to take travellers to experience Antarctica and expanded into the Arctic and after a short time were offering the largest range of Polar cruise options available in New Zealand. We even chartered full cruise vessels to take our travellers to Antarctica each and every season!

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In 2019 we became an official All Blacks Tours sales agent, giving us exclusive rights to create and sell official All Blacks Travel Packages to watch our mighty men in black take on the feisty Pumas in Argentina. For 2020 we had secured the legendary All Blacks captain Wayne “Buck” Shelford to lead an exclusive small groups tour to Argentina in September.

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When I joined Viva we worked with a handful of travel agents in New Zealand. But over the last 6 years we have grown to a point we service almost all of the New Zealand retail agency chains. Meaning when Kiwi travellers book a trip through their local travel agent there is an extremely high likelihood that is actually our team that provided the agent with the package for you!

My role has also developed over the years, from Destination Specialist responsible for creating unique & personalised travel packages for our wonderful clients, to team leader, and now as Viva’s Operations Manager. I now lead the team, making sure all our clients are well looked after, I coordinate with our local offices in Latin America to ensure everything is running smoothly, and am always on the lookout for new and exciting things for our travellers to experience.

My passion for travel has only grown with Viva. It was not long after joining Viva that I got to take that wonderful Wild Patagonia tour that I longed to too when joining Rach. I have also been lucky enough to go back again with my husband to experience some of the luxury lodges that Patagonia has to offer. I feel in love with Patagonia, its remoteness, its vastness. There are endless hiking trails to discover, lots of wildlife and delicious local cuisine. Some highlights for me have been hiking in Argentina’s El Chalten and in Chiles Torres del Paine National Park. In addition, landing on Cape Horn at the very bottom tip of South America, pretty much the most Southerly point in the world with the exception of Antarctica, was a dream come true.

Hiking in Spitsbergen 

I have taken groups to sample the wines of Uruguay, and to snorkel in the Galapagos. I have been to Antarctica and most recently I joined an expedition cruise to the Arctic, where we circumnavigated the island of Spitsbergen. When I look at a map now, I still cannot believe how far north I was. I had dreamed of seeing a polar bear, which was why I selected this voyage…and was lucky enough to see 22! Read more about my trip here.

Polar bear watch

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It has been a busy journey, but I have loved it and I am very proud to be a part of team Viva today.

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Obviously, our worlds were turned upside down in March 2020 when the reality of the COVID-19 Pandemic really hit home. We are facing a very uncertain future and some tough times ahead, but I'll let Rachel tell you more about that. What I can say is that I’m extremely proud of my team and what we have built together over the last 6 years that I have worked with Viva, and I have faith that we will emerge from this bad dream stronger and ready to keep doing what we do best, which is making peoples Latin America & Antarctica dreams come true. 

Viva por siempre ! Long live Viva! 

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