Guillermo Alcorta, the tourism ambassador, speaks with DIÁRIO

The series of presidential interviews, which began in February of this year, retains its real birthmark: interviewing people with the depth of a high sea, with the lightness of a chronicle and with the freshness of novelty, of what has arrived now. Fábio Steinberg, an associate of DIÁRIO, translates all this in this interview with the President of Panrotas, Guillermo Alcorta, with the skill of the chronicler and with the special sensitivity of good journalists. Follow:


Adjectives like quiet, peaceful or subdued 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 is today a mandatory reference in the sector.

Always one step ahead of trends, this dynamic paternal Argentinian and maternal Brazilian manages to represent the best of both nations in one person with his sympathy and competence.

In his 83 years, three brothers, Guillermo has had a trajectory of very diverse experiences. Born in Buenos Aires, he studied for 12 years at the Colegio Marista Champagnat. There he left behind a legion of friends who to this day meet at the end of each year.

There is no shortage of adventures in your life. Once he finishes high school, he joins an expedition on the Argentine warship ARA Murature around the Valdez Peninsula. He also dived as a hobby 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 studies Engineering and Business Administration simultaneously for two years.

His passion for airplanes made him choose the Argentine Air Force two years later, during his compulsory military service, 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 vacations between São Paulo, Guarujá and Rio de Janeiro, always with his large Brazilian family. You have cousins ​​at ease. His grandfather, José Maria Whitaker, twice Secretary of the Treasury, fathered 14 children – 3 boys and 11 girls. In turn, Guillermo had three children, Maria Camilla, Marianna and José Guilherme, who bore him three grandchildren.

childhood friends

Through his presence in Brazil, Alcorta builds strong bonds of friendship that will bring him closer to the tourism industry in 1971. That’s thanks to a reunion 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 head the tourism office of a company. The experience lasted for four years, until Banco Halles, which included Andrade Arnaud, fell victim to federal intervention.

In 1974, based on the market experience and the needs and relationships established with airlines, Alcorta discovered a business opportunity. It notes that tourism offices do not have a catalog of timetables and airfares for flights in Brazil. Thus the Panrotas guide was born. These are heroic times, at a time when everything is still done by hand. There are no PCs yet, the internet, let alone online reservations.

“Based on Pronta Referência’s English ABC (“from-to”) system and my familiarity with mathematics, engineering and administration, we started to publish the air network of flights with fares on a monthly basis, section by section,” he recalls.

“In the beginning, the rates were calculated on an Olivetti machine with a hand crank. The data collected by the airlines was written on magnetic cards by two IBM MC82 typewriters. Two operators for each equipment took turns adding, excluding, and changing sections, schedules, and rates. I was very concerned about the accuracy, quality and timeliness of the information. Any mistake would be fatal,” he continues.

hidden in the drawer

After one year, the Panrotas Guide – forerunner of the modern GDS – already has 1,000 signatures. The company later began offering domestic fares for 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 at all locations served by the airline.

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

“I discovered that the Panrotas was on the airline ticket publisher’s desk, often hidden in the drawer. It acted as a kind of “weapon”, as a guarantee that only he could fulfill the function”, Guillermo laughs.

It is necessary to circulate the Panrotas throughout the desk. At that moment he decides to add an editorial part to the Guide. It contains texts and photos of the owners and professionals, with news and events of the sector. The strategy works great. With the decision, the circulation reaches 15 thousand copies, with print runs of up to 400 pages.

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

Confronted with the major consequences of including journalism in the Gids, he decided in 1977 to adopt the model at the ABAV conference in Curitiba. For example, the Jornal Panrotas da ABAV is published daily, with news about what is happening during the meeting. For this, a newsroom, a traveling photo lab and prepress have been set up in the hotel where the team is staying. Out of eight, the publication reaches 64 pages over the years. Its success is repeated in the events of the next forty years.

Guillermo Alcorta (Credit: Emerson de Souza – Panrotas)

New articles

In the late 1980s, Alcorta created another publication. It is the Brazilian Overview, which is published annually in English to this day. 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 dying out. That’s why it’s about making the switch to the Internet. In June 2000 he created the Panrotas Portal. With immediate updating, as the new times demand, the project again proves to be a 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 to increasingly represent the sector and create opportunities for reflection and updating, the Panrotas Forum was born in 2003. “These are two days of inspiration and training at an event that allows us to assess, rethink and innovate trends – something that is unprecedented and unrivaled in 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 doesn’t mean he’s thinking about hanging up his boots. Far from. In addition to a head full of ideas, this Argentinian who became a Brazilian citizen in 1997 has enviable physical strength. On the day we spoke, he had just walked more than two miles through the streets of São Paulo, a common occurrence in his routine. But even less than the 7 kilometers that are normally your daily average.

no pension

In addition, his love for planes, places and people ensures that his agenda is always full of travel. Today he could be in São Paulo, tomorrow in Buenos Aires, the next day in Orlando for the IPW, and who knows where in the world that demands his infinite energy and curiosity.

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

Despite its huge success, Matcher had to be discontinued due to the pandemic and the international situation that was not conducive to tourism. “I’m not giving up hope that he will return soon, as soon as favorable conditions allow,” he says.

Risk does not 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. You know that every time one door closes, another inevitably opens. “I have learned from my mistakes”, is his laconic remark. Only he prefers to spend his inexhaustible enthusiasm in talking about what is working, and especially what is yet to come.

With this profile, it is only natural that he has actually and rightly become an ambassador for Brazilian tourism. This is your great credit. It can be explained: we are talking about a trade that is characterized in Brazil by fragmented interest groups. The miracle of the association only really takes place under the wing of the founder, who can even be confused with the company he founded.

The greatest proof of his personal prestige can be seen at any tourism trade show. There’s no one who wouldn’t want to at least stop by the Panrotas booth. Whether you want to be seen, meet people, have a cup of coffee or with a bit of luck get your picture taken next to the founder.

nothing alone

What is the secret of such success? “First of all, I learned that you can’t do anything alone. Without cooperation and being useful to others, nobody shakes hands.” Said by someone else, it might sound like a catchphrase. But not when it comes to Guillermo Alcorta.

Just look at the team. They are people like Artur Luiz Andrade, editor in chief of the publications, Heloisa Prass, director of marketing, Ricardo Sidaras, in charge of the commercial part, Ricardo Tsugawa, in charge 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 as an office boy 26 years ago and takes care of Panrotas’ photos today. In general, everyone has been highly motivated to hike next to Alcorta for decades.

This is explained for a reason. Despite exponential growth, the company remains familiar, but in a sui generis way. Thanks to the human touch and the professional respect of the founder, all participants feel part of it. This happens through consanguinity or affinity with goals, it doesn’t matter.

Guillermo’s mission is neither easy nor complete. As he himself acknowledges, the needs of tourism in Brazil remain. The activity must be effectively recognized by the government because of its economic strength, potential for integration and job creation.

Challenges are part of its history. You don’t have to be afraid of making mistakes when trying. After all, with a lot of observation, sense of opportunity and a good dose of courage, he transformed Panrotas from a timetable and airline ticket guide into a communication, marketing and event solutions company for the tourism sector.

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 been an incentive for me, because that’s where great achievements come from.”

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