Meet Sam from Tailormade Andalucía
Self-described “international mongrel” Sam Lister has found himself settled in Seville as an adopted Spaniard, armed with a unique perspective: “I feel like a local, but with the eye of a foreign traveller. I’m almost like a bridge between the two worlds.”
A great vantage point, then, to launch Tailormade Andalucia, a company focused on handcrafted bespoke tours of Andalucia and Spain. The half-Kiwi, half-Scot via Hong Kong, Japan and England, first came to Andalucia straight out of university, drawn by his love of Spanish studies… and a girl from Seville. “I wouldn’t say the rest is history, I actually married a different girl,” he laughs, but his commitment to Seville hasn’t wavered. “The whole culture, I was drawn to it.”
An initial taste of tourism working for a travel and lifestyle magazine showed him the amazing opportunities on offer in the region, and Tailormade Andalucia was set up in 2008, “Just, me, myself, and I initially. And we kind of stumbled into our destiny.”
The team’s now grown to five, four based around Seville and one in Malaga, but the focus remains on quality experiences, not quantity.
Tailormade Andalucia doesn’t have any ‘off the shelf’ itineraries. Each is tailored specifically to each traveller’s particular interests, whether that’s flamenco, tapas and Spanish wine, or spending time in a mountain village with a local and joining their family for lunch.
While most tour operators tick off the must-see sights, Tailormade Andalucia focuses on the idea of encounters with interesting locals to add authenticity to the activities; relationships cultivated through friendships, word of mouth, and trial and error, Sam says.
“Many of them are larger than life. They could be guides, they could be hosts, they could be local villagers,” he says. “So often the most lasting memories are made by the people you meet along the way. The person who shows you around is the eyes through which you see that experience. You get a much different experience having a wine tasting with the owner of a winery rather than a foreign student who’s on work experience.”
Taking the traveller off the beaten track is another focus: “We always suggest quite strongly for people to spend time either in rural areas of the country or secondary destinations. The largest cities such as Barcelona, Madrid, even Seville, become very cosmopolitan, very international. And whilst you do get a good taste of Spanish culture, it’s perhaps not as raw as when you get out to where people are living in a genuine bubble of local culture. Our clients have a wonderful time and it’s very real. It’s harder to achieve that nowadays.”
The Tourwriter journey
Tailormade Andalucia’s handcrafted itineraries were rather painstakingly handcrafted in the early days, Sam recalls. “It was very manual. Copy, paste, copy, paste and then constantly proofread. You had to go through it with a fine-tooth comb to make sure you’ve got everything right.”
The company originally adopted the Tourwriter.NET product to speed up the process, and after a pause in the business due to the Covid pandemic, started back on the new Tourwriter product.
“We managed to get our supplier and product library up to speed in the nick of time to receive the tidal wave of business that came as travel opened up,” Sam notes.
“Tourwriter was a huge improvement in terms of back office for us. Now, whilst you still have to proofread everything, it is more automatic, and intuitive.”
“And the aesthetics are really cutting edge. The itineraries are really beautiful to look at and it’s very easy for us to convey the message that we want to and convert proposals into trips.”
He also acknowledges Tourwriter’s quick response rate and willingness to listen and evolve as positive factors. “What we signed up to is a very different platform to what it is now, and it continues to improve.”
Post-pandemic, Tailormade Andalucia is expecting 2022 to be its best year yet, with 2023 bookings also looking great. “Things have bounced back with both engines, thankfully.”
While they’re expecting big things, their focus is still on the intimate details that keep their product unique, including a willingness to create even more “outside the box” itineraries.
“In terms of sustainability, we’ve also sort of created a number of experiences that are linked to the environment and community,” Sam adds. This includes support for truly regenerative tourism by supporting a local non-profit organisation which is restoring an abandoned salt marsh.
Personalised service also remains a tenet of Tailormade Andalucía’s business. “I am aware that a lot of companies will just give you a generic concierge number or bounce people around the office,” Sam notes. “When we get a confirmation, we always work in teams of two – one trip designer who will be with the agent or client from the very first inquiry to create the trip and ensure that it is ready to execute right up to the client’s arrival; and one operations member from start to finish, who does all of the reservations, makes sure that all the ground logistics are ready and who acts as the client concierge for their trip.
“Whenever we can, we will meet up with our clients along the way, take them for a beer or tapas. In that respect, it is a very direct, very personal relationship.
“We aren’t actually striving to be a big company. It’s more striving to find that ever elusive balance between quality, personal touch and hard work.”