Q&A: Scott Bird, co-founder Bungolow.com

Scott Bird is the co-founder of Bungolow.com, a Santiago-based flash sales site which features luxury Latin American hotels. The company launched this past November and in the period they’ve been open, they have worked with hotels in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Chile and Argentina. In the coming months, Bungolow.com we will begin featuring hotels across other Latin American destinations including Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia.

Room with a view: Hotel Antumala, just one of the many hotel rooms being sold at rates of up to 50% off on bungolow.com. Photo courtesy of Hotel Antumalal

LTB: What is Bungolow.com all about?

Scott Bird: Bungolow.com features luxury Latin American hotels and resorts at room rates of up to 50% off. Our featured properties are hand-selected and reviewed by the Bungolow team for quality of service, amenities, and character.

Each sale lasts for 10 days and includes information about the hotel accompanied by a gallery of high-resolution photos. Members reserve their hotel rooms, select their travel dates, and submit payment through our booking system.

Our goal is to place an emphasis on imagery and simplify the hotel reservation process by only offering our selection of curated hotels and resorts across Latin American destinations.

LTB:  How is it different from similar sites like, say, Jetsetter.co.uk?

SB: Our difference is in our niche. Jetsetter has a global focus featuring properties from all over the world. We’re focusing exclusively on properties in Latin American countries. Our goal is for you to be able to see as much of Latin America as possible. Unlike Jetsetter, our site is also available in Spanish which allows us to reach out to Latin American members as well.

LTB: I’ve personally never been to South America, and would like to change that this year. Where do I start, and what should I absolutely not miss?

SB: Oh boy, there’s so much to see! If you only have 1-2 weeks, I highly recommend Buenos Aires as your first trip to South America. Buenos Aires was the first place I ever visited in the region. It has all the comforts of home that you’re accustomed to, but you’re still wrapped in the South American flavor. The best thing about Buenos Aires is the feeling. There is no pressure to have to do a million things at once. Take leisurely-paced lunches, go to the cafes and occasionally sprinkle in some touristic activities. If you have a little extra time on the trip you should definitely visit Iguazu Falls. Located at the border between Brazil and Argentina, the waterfall is one of the biggest in the world and is an amazing sight!

LTB: What sets the hotels you feature on Bungolow.com apart from the others in Latin America?

SB: We’re really focusing on the luxury boutique hotel. A lot of these hotels you wouldn’t come across unless doing more detailed research into the locations. For example in Santiago, Chile, it’s too easy to just book the Ritz-Carlton without doing much research and be done with it. We recommend a couple of spectacular and unique smaller hotels here such as The Aubrey and Lastarria Boutique Hotel. It would be a shame to travel all this way and stay at a hotel you could easily find in London or New York.

LTB: What is the luxury hotel scene like in Latin America?

SB: Depending on country the scene can really vary. There are a lot of great luxury properties in traditionally popular tourist destinations such as  Mexico or Buenos Aires, Argentina. But then you also have places like Panama City which has just exploded with brand new luxury hotels in recent years. The type of luxury varies – it’s easy to find everything from traditional huge, gold-plated hotels to the 4-guest eco-spa sitting on the edge of the ocean.  Overall the outlook is great as newer hotels are popping up and travel to the region increases.

LTB: Now I’m going to ask you to be completely subjective. What the best hotel you’ve ever stayed at in Latin America?

SB: My favorite hotel is definitely the Arrebol Patagonia. It’s located in Puerto Varas, Chile which is a destination that is often overlooked by foreigners when travelling way south to Patagonia and Torres del Paine. But the hotel is this beautifully minimalistic and modern building. None of the rooms have televisions as you don’t need them – your view is of the Llanquihue lake. They have a wood bar which is from a fallen tree sourced local, so they’ve done an amazing job at adding rustic elements that are also eco-friendly.

LTB: Where should I check in for superb service, unbeatable location, and mouth-watering food under one roof?

SB: In Buenos Aires, for everything I have to recommend the Alvear Palace. If you don’t need mouth-watering food directly in the hotel then there are also great boutique hotels like the Nuss Hotel which have several great restaurant options just blocks away. Personally, I’m a big fan of the boutique hotels across South America. Many of them are in older buildings restored to their original elegance with a bit of a modern furniture. To me, staying in one of these boutique’s is a way to experience the city’s history.

LTB: I know we’ve sort of touched on this in the course of our conversation, but what does Latin America as a destination have to specifically offer the 25-34 year old?

SB: Almost every destination I’ve been here has a perfect blend of adventure, festivities, and relaxation. Spend your days hiking or rafting and dance your nights away. Most of the big cities have incredible nightlife. The culture definitely starts later with dinner after 9pm and then hitting the clubs in the early morning. It’s a bit too easy to party and stay out until 6 or 7 in the morning here. That’s not a problem though, because the days also get started a little later down here.

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