The Business Year

Santiago Gómez de la Torre

ECUADOR - Transport

Santiago Gómez de la Torre

CEO, Tabacarcen

Bio

Santiago Gómez de la Torre is the CEO of Tabacarcen Logistic Center. He has extensive knowledge of the industry, after working at the airport for more than 17 years. He has worked in various fields and acquired know-how in international legal contracts, managing large facilities, and financial structuring, among others. He has played a key part in Tabacarcen’s growth.

After quickly adjusting to the new demands of logistics during the pandemic and investing in technology, Tabacarcen emerged even stronger and more successful.

How did Tabacarcen contribute during the COVID-19 pandemic?

In March 2020, Quito introduced a strict curfew restriction, and Tabacarcen had to make the decision to either adjust to the curfew or pause all operations. As paused operations was not an option due to the importance of our operations in the logistics chain. We decide to incorporate the CDC recommendations and protocols, which we adapted to our own reality. We came up with strict protocols that allowed for continuity in the company. Knowing the direct link between cargo and saving lives, we worked seven days a week and 12-14 hours a day for eight months, mainly in adapting our infrastructure, reengineering our processes, and adapting ourselves to the new normal while serving all logistics users. We were able to work with Ecuadorian ambassadors in Europe and assist them free of charge to import donated medical equipment from several countries. Also, we worked on multiple operations of the donations received by the Ministry of health and foreign embassies of multiple countries. This was our direct way of supporting our country during the pandemic. COVID-19 caused various financial issues mainly in 2020, though in 2021 there was a swift change, and it became the historic peak year for air cargo in the country, with more than a 30% increase in terms of tons moved. 

How did cargo activity evolve in Ecuador?

Up until 2019, air cargo was common and substantially the same both in quantity and the type of products. After 2020, all air cargo had been transformed with products that were usually sea freight cargo. The main factor that led to this change was sea freight prices, which increased dramatically, in addition to the change in Ecuadorian foreign policy by the government becoming more open to the world. Both events had caused a great impact in the amount and variety of products that are currently transported by air. The trust that a new economic growth period is on its way and the effects of the sea freight crisis is leading to a direct reaction in the level of cargo. This has changed logistics for good. New, demanding customers are no longer willing to wait several months to receive their imported products, and we must be able to recognize and understand that. 

How has the logistics center evolved?

In Latin American airports, cargo handling centers have not changed that much for many years. We decided to change this and focused our time and resources on the construction of a semiautomatic handling center that started construction in the most severe period of the pandemic. In 2021, we opened our new center, and though it took some extra time to adapt to the new processes, we are extremely pleased to have done it. The new center and system facilitates the movement of cargo while increasing traceability. Now, our human resources are more focused on service that on moving boxes. This change will eventually take place in every airport in the region, as it results in greater efficiency, security, and safety to the operations. 

What is your vision for the economy of Ecuador in the long term?

The president has done a brilliant job in generating confidence and the appropriate mechanisms to attract foreign investment. There is more trust in the country than ever before, and this oblige us to prepare for the future to come, as more and more tons of cargo will be moved by our airport. In preparation of such a future, we have many projects, one of them extremely ambitious, that will make Quito a hub in Lantin America. At the same time, we are working on other projects to continue technology implementation that will facilitate commerce, which is our main duty and obligation to the city. We bet for technology once and we will continue on that path in the years to come.

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