2024 Next Gen: Carlos I. Garcia Martinez
Carlos I. Garcia Martinez is one of the 2024 Next Gens, as nominated by Groups Today readers for making a difference in the industry with his fresh, progressive perspective.
Carlos I. Garcia Martinez | Tour Director, Viajes A Plus, Inc.
Son of a science teacher, Carlos I. Garcia Martinez has been involved in student travel since 1995 as a student himself, establishing his passion for educational tours. When asked what drew him to the group travel industry, Garcia Martinez said his mother was a huge influence.
"Being the son of a science teacher in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, I got to experience educational travel since I was eight years old," he said. "I started working as a guide when I was 19 years old as a summer job. But I never left!"
That was in 2005 with Viajes A Plus, Inc., where Garcia Martinez continues his work today with knowledge in operations, airfare and sales.
"The first group I had the chance to guide was from Vieques, Puerto Rico, which is a small island off the mainland here," he recalled. "Most of the kids had not only never been to the Kennedy Space Center and its seminars, but some had never been in an airplane before. To be able to be the bridge in such a profound experience for those kids ... the appreciation ... is what made me fall in love with what I do, even 20 years later."
Six years ago, Garcia Martinez started the company's Puerto Rico branch for inbound tours and serves as tour director. He sees the challenges and evolution of student tours as the most intriguing part of the industry currently.
"Being in this world for over 30 years, I have seen subtle and big changes all along the way," Garcia Martinez said. "The pandemic, among other issues, has changed and molded how we process educational tours from beginning to end."
His favorite accomplishment so far is the lives he's seen changed throughout the years, whether it's students, parents or coworkers.
"Throughout the years, you see how this affects and changes the lives of students. Some may decide what to do with their professional careers due to the experience we provided," Garcia Martinez said, adding that he's also proud to have helped assist in students building self-esteem and independence. "Being able to hear from a student, 'I went into flight school due to the NASA trip you took me to,' makes it all worth it."
Garcia Martinez is passionate about being the bridge between students and experiences in the educational tour world, in turn leaving a mark and opening their minds. In the future, he hopes to accomplish a number of goals, including changing as many lives as possible, promoting Puerto Rico as an educational tour destination and having airfare management for their office.
"[I hope to] make each experience a unique one for students from Puerto Rico and around the world!"
Carlos I. Garcia Martinez is one of the 2024 Next Gens, as nominated by Groups Today readers for making a difference in the industry with his fresh, progressive perspective. Click here to see the January/February feature.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for Groups Today.