Among the myriad necessities and perks inherent to the global transportation industry is the unique position available to operators to broaden not only their international horizons but also their cultural awareness. On any given day, a company can be hammering out logistics with another business several time zones away, transporting a group on the other side of the continent, and juggling a worldwide constellation of affiliates—all of which demand a sensitivity to and appreciation for other cultures.
The same is true of Mexico’s Alquimavi Limousines, a mainstay of the North American luxury ground transportation family practically since its start as a two-sedan company in 1990, which CEO Ramon Mateos began when he was just 22 years old. A lifelong Mexico City resident, Mateos assessed the services available in his home city after a friend’s disastrous ride with a hotel shuttle, and realized that there was a void for transportation options and expectations that catered to the demand for a high level of service, which he knew was the gold standard in the U.S. It’s the kind of high-touch service that goes beyond offering the minimum of clean cars and perfectly poised chauffeurs.
“We needed to offer a different kind of service from the ones already known in the market,” says Alquimavi CEO Mateos. “We delivered that high-level service by offering new cars, bilingual chauffeurs, extended hours, and—most importantly of all—punctuality.”
Indeed, anticipating potential problems and service disruptions is second nature for a team that knows how to expertly navigate the quirks that come with calling a 700-year-old city and its ancient surroundings home. To account for frequent traffic delays, Mateos gravitates to hiring staff who live within an easily traversable proximity to Alquimavi’s Mexico City headquarters. To thwart aggravations caused by flight cancelations, he will send his driving staff to the airport’s parking lot far ahead of time so they’ll be ready to pick up weary travelers soon after their arrival. To combat frequent road closures on main thoroughfares, Mateos advises leaving two to three hours before a job’s scheduled completion.
Circumventing issues through careful preparation is just one key to Alquimavi’s success, though. Employing chauffeurs who are fluent in both Spanish and English was—and remains—among the highest priority for Mateos. Catering to English-speaking clientele goes hand in hand with Alquimavi’s American-inspired dedication to delivering the highest quality service—often to stateside vacationers heading south of the border who want to get away but also find comfort in hearing their native tongue.
And that service is bolstered by an in-depth hiring process spearheaded by an outside human resources company that investigates, examines, and even administers psychological tests to potential hires so that, Mateos says, “we can see if a specific person fits the profile we need in order to integrate them easily with the work team we already have.”
Mateos is quick to attribute Alquimavi’s success to his well-vetted and inherently dedicated team, as he recognizes the importance of harnessing the genuine passion that drives hard-working individuals to go above and beyond for the benefit of demanding clients. And cultivating a harmonious team means that his chauffeurs can trust the office staff to fill in the blanks on the rare occasion they’re stumped by a passenger’s request or inquiry.
“Our chauffeurs have to be passionate, they have to know the city, and they have to love what they do,” he explains, adding that Alquimavi offers intensive chauffeur training. Before getting behind the wheel, anyone on the driving team goes through at least 15 days of rigorous education that covers everything from in-car demeanor to maintaining a minimum distance of four meters from the vehicle in front of them.
“They have to know how to work with very special people, like executives and wealthy people on vacation,” Mateos says of Alquimavi’s chauffeurs. “For example, if a customer requests an Argentinean restaurant, then our chauffeurs can recommend a very good one. And if the chauffeur doesn’t know exactly what’s offered in some area, he can call the office to find one. The office staff can then make a reservation for the customer. That’s part of our service, and it’s always been part of our service.”
Mateos says he has learned a tremendous amount from the United States’ model of luxury ground transportation that Alquimavi exemplifies. From attending industry trade shows to catering to a staggering number of global clients, from learning by his affiliates’ examples to being among the earliest international operations to seek membership in the National Limousine Association (Alquimavi has been an NLA member since 1996), his aspiration to offer a truly high-level, thoroughly American travel experience in Mexico is eclipsed only by the measures he takes to ensure Alquimavi offers the highest quality of service.
The mutual learning opportunities make for a reciprocal relationship, to be sure.
“It’s very important to us that we have many friends in the States who are in the business and that we talk a lot with them,” Mateos says. “Sometimes they give us new ideas, or sometimes we give them new ideas. It starts with meeting people at these industry events and talking about how to offer excellent service to our customers.”
He also continues the exchange of cultural ideas by assuming the role of an advocate and ambassador to both the city and the country he loves.
“You always hear the bad news about Mexico but what the media shows the rest of the world is not what our country is,” Mateos says. “That’s the reason why, when I invite people to Mexico City, I make sure they leave with a very different idea of it. My point of view of Mexico is that it’s a wonderful country with lots of friendly people, people who love to help other people, especially foreign travelers. The country is amazing, and just in Mexico City you can visit many, many museums, see our beautiful downtown—which I compare to the downtown of Madrid—and our history.”
Mateos calls Mexico City, Alquimavi’s primary home for nearly three decades, “the most important city in the country”—and he’s certainly not alone in making that assessment. It is not only the capital of Mexico but also the most populous city in the entire North American continent: Its 573 square miles are home to a walloping 8,918,653 people within the city proper (the metropolitan region of Greater Mexico City boasts a population of 21.3 million, the largest in the Western Hemisphere), making it the most densely populated city in Mexico. Alquimavi’s Mexico City office does about 90 percent corporate work while the remaining 10 percent is transporting tourists, but the city itself boasts a truly balanced and diverse identity.
Mexico City is one of Latin America’s most important economic hubs, accounting for nearly 16 percent of Mexico’s GDP—it’s the wealthiest city in Latin America and eighth richest in the world. It’s also one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. The Mexican Stock Exchange is based there, and companies like Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, Citigroup, Apple, General Electric, JP Morgan Chase & Co., and Pfizer all have considerable presences there—many of which account for Alquimavi’s executive clients.
Tens of millions of tourists pour into Mexico City every year, drawn by the historical and cultural richness it offers. The city is home to UNESCO World Heritage Sites, ancient archeological ruins, 160 museums, floating gardens in Xochimilco, one of the longest single avenues in the world, stunning architecture, and a thriving art scene. It is a city that brings eras together by positioning ravaged Aztec temples within steps from thoroughly modern structures, and it is a hub that makes the rest of Central Mexico easily accessible to the point where it’s a popular stepping stone for neighboring cities.
“If tourists come to Mexico City, they usually want to see the pyramids and everything downtown,” Mateos says. “Our most commonly visited part of the city is where you’ll find the luxury stores, the restaurants, the nightlife. It’s like Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, with all the stores and very expensive apartments.”
Mexico City is also a popular stop on touring musical acts’ concert circuits, a prime location for numerous and varied sporting events, and favored for special occasion events like the Grand Prix F1, WEC, and MTV Awards, which Mateos says were “a very exciting event” to be a part of.
Within the past decade, Alquimavi established a second location in the immensely popular seaside city of Cancun, an area that also knows a thing or two about satisfying and servicing millions of tourists every year—from those enjoying spring break to destination weddings and everything in between. It’s one of Mexico’s most famous resorts, which is no surprise given its crystal-clear waters, pristine beaches, and year-round balmy days—though it also features relics from its long history, including ruins dating back to the pre-Columbian Mayans. Alquimavi’s Cancun office sees a perfect inverse of Mexico City’s, with 90 percent of its clients being tourists and the remaining 10 percent result from Cancun’s growing popularity as a meeting and convention destination. Either way, Mateos certainly understands the appeal of Cancun.
“Americans from the East Coast visit Cancun, and every two or three months, we’re doing another convention there,” he says. “The sand, it’s completely white and it never burns your feet. It’s so beautiful there. I have visited many places around the world but Cancun beaches are so beautiful.”
He capitalized on that organic knowledge, helping to ensure that the tourists who expect high-level executive service while also walking Cancun’s white-sand beaches, enjoying sublime year-round temperatures, and exploring a Gulf Coast resort got the best of both worlds.
That’s why the Cancun and Mexico City offices strive for the same standards Mateos has always prioritized. And also why he ensures his team comprises the best of the best—and recognizes their dedication as being key to delivering a truly luxury experience.
“It is essential to count on personnel who really love their job and enjoy each day of work so that we can thrive in an excellent work atmosphere, which allows us to face new challenges successfully: This can only be achieved with teamwork,” Mateos says. “We are convinced that recognizing the effort of each one of our staff members has been fundamental to our growth, since with time, we have a highly professional team in this industry, which is still very small in Mexico.”
The 24-hour staff of nearly 50 people sees chauffeurs, reservationists, and dispatchers sharing duties in a trio of shifts (7 a.m.-2 p.m.; 2 p.m.-9 p.m.; and 9 p.m.-7 a.m.). They, like Alquimavi’s chauffeurs, also must be fluent in English: “You can call us at 3 a.m. and there will be someone here who can talk to you in English,” Mateos promises.
While it takes a team to make the company hum, Mateos relies especially heavily on Alquimavi’s International Market & Roadshow Manager Ylse Escamilla.
“Ylse is my right hand,” he says. “She works very closely with me and has helped the company adapt and continue to grow in our market.”
Part of what has helped Alquimavi stay ahead of the curve and keep up with rapidly changing times is its willingness to embrace technology. Mateos keenly recalls the early days of logging trips and taking reservations by hand; now, he says, the operation has “an excellent reservation system” and is pleased with the industry software and resources his company uses, like Limo Anywhere.
“All of us at Alquimavi are aware that our best investment has been in technology, which has kept us a step ahead of our competitors,” Mateos says.
Alquimavi’s vehicles and chauffeurs also benefit from the gadgets that Mateos has seen gain omnipresence since his company’s beginning as a two-sedan fleet. Chauffeurs have an in-phone app at their disposal to exchange passenger information with the office, GPS for real-time travel information, and even panic buttons to ensure passengers are cared for with the utmost attention to their safety.
"It’s very important to us that we have many friends in the States who are in the business and that we talk a lot with them. It starts with the people you meet at these industry events and talking about how to offer excellent service to our customers.” – Ramon Mateos, CEO of Alquimavi LimousinesThe company’s original two vehicles soon were joined by an SUV and two Grand Marquis limousines, and the company hasn’t stopped growing and adapting with clients’ needs over the decades. While the limousines were replaced long ago with more in-demand options, Alquimavi has more than 40 vehicles between its two offices. More than 30 serve the Mexico City office, which include Mercedes-Benz, Lincoln, Cadillac, and Audi vehicles like sedans, SUVs, passenger vans—many of which are armored—while the Cancun location has a fleet of half a dozen SUVs. And one of the most special cars in Alquimavi’s fleet is the armored Mercedes-Benz Maybach that Mateos says gets a lot of extracurricular use from a client in entertainment who puts the vehicle in TV shows and movies.
When he isn’t working or helping his guests fall in love with the Mexico he knows, Mateos spends time with his wife Donna, their 20-year-old collegiate daughter Ana Paula, and his four loyal dogs.
“I would especially like to thank my wife Donna and my daughter Pauli for always supporting me in my wonderful years in this industry,” Mateos says.
He’s also an avid baseball fan, with a special fondness for both the relatively nearby Houston Astros (who he makes a point of seeing for their home games) and Boston Red Sox. When he’s in major U.S. cities for industry events, meetings, or personal travel, he tries to visit the local baseball stadiums, citing New York’s Yankee Stadium and the Sox’s Fenway Park among his favorites.
Mateo’s heart is in the transportation industry, and he values both the global friendships it has offered him and the opportunity to provide clients the best service that he and the Alquimavi team can.
“The most rewarding part is the customer service,” he says. “You’re always thinking of the small details that make a difference. If our customers went to the States or Europe, they would receive the same level of service we give them. It is so important to us that our customers are happy.”