Meet the alumni behind " The Orange Guide", the online travel agency

The Orange Guide started three years ago, just six months before the Covid pandemic disrupted travel abroad. This online travel agency specialises in authentic group tours and experiences in Valencia (and soon Seville) and corporate incentive trips. Since Covid, the company has updated its business model. It offered remote working packages, renting out properties in Valencia to individuals and groups who want to temporarily move their ‘work from home office’ to a more pleasant situation.

For the love of Spain

Guusje and Evelien became good friends at the Hotelschool during their management practicals when they were both Hotelschool cleaning managers. They discovered a shared passion and love for Spain. It was the beginning of a friendship and partnership in business. Once they graduated, they became roommates in Amsterdam, where Sisi (Guusje) worked in project management and Evelien in marketing and sales. When Evelien decided to go to Barcelona to do a Masters in Marketing, Sisi didn’t want to miss out and chose a Masters in Strategic Business Management in Valencia. Both loved their time in Spain, and more importantly, they saw the potential for tourism in Valencia.

Just do it

And so it began. “When we started our business, the concept of a travel agency was already considered outdated. Still, we could see that the desire for experiential travel was rising,” Sisi tells us over a video call. She explains that they felt confident that their academic background, combined marketing and creative skills, and love for Spain could fill the ‘experience economy’ gap, so they started their online travel agency. Evelien adds, “We understand tourism. We connected with the locals. We didn’t need a big investment. We never had and still don’t need an office. We just did it.”

Making connections

The Orange Guide is all about connecting tourists to the real Spain. Sisi and Evelien have made it their mission to show authentic Valencia to the Dutch and go beyond typical tourism. They also intend to progress beyond Valencia and show more of Spain with Seville as the next city on The Orange Guide menu. Sisi is passionate when she explains what drives her in business; “My favourite thing is the connection with the locals and being able to contribute to the local economy. We want to facilitate connections by allowing our clients to meet and interact with locals and participate in activities. We can do that because we know the locals. So our personal service is at the core of our concept. We’re in close contact with our clients and partners, and we make sure that we are available. It sounds so simple, but maybe that’s our magic formula!

The Hotelschool mindset

According to the entrepreneurs, their studies at the Hotelschool laid a foundation for their travel agency. Evelien says, “At Hotelschool The Hague, you learn a bit of everything; we learned about the market but also about marketing, sales and finance. It was a very practical study with realistic cases.” Guusje (Sisi) is quick to add that the mindset and values nurtured at the Hotelschool have significantly influenced their attitude to business. “Work very hard. Go after things. Be charming. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes; just go and learn from them.” she says with a big grin. This is also their advice to fellow Hotelschool The Hague students: making mistakes is part of the process, and it’s how you learn and improve.

Keep going

Like many of their tourism industry peers, Sisi and Evelien’s Don’t Give Up mentality was tested when Covid hit. “We shifted to renting out houses and villas in Valencia instead of incentive trips, and Covid forced us to look at our business model. Some of our friends came to ‘work from home’ in Valencia. We started to promote it as an alternative, and this means of diversifying gave us more promotion as we made national and international news (NOS, CNN) with our business." Since then, the friends have also launched their second business The Orange Boost, an online marketing agency, and they have expanded by taking on an intern and colleagues.

Don’t give up. You have to grow into it!

Who are Guusje and Evelien?

Guusje van Kreij (known as Sisi) started at the Hotelschool in 2013. Her practical placement was at the hotel The Westin in Valencia, and her management placement was in a small, cute hotel in the mountains of Andalucía named La Posada del Ángel.

Evelien Rijpma started at the Hotelschool in 2012. Her practical placement was at Le Meridien in Barcelona at the Front Office department, and her management placement was with events agency Fjuze in Amsterdam.

Both Guusje and Evelien graduated in 2017 and are members of our Alumni network.