Maricar Donato, Washington DC USA

Maricar is a brand ambassador for the World Federation of Tourist Guide Association and based in the US Capital City Washington DC.

She also runs Washington Tours & Events

She explains about herself: I work as a multilingual tourist guide and tourism director. I have been appointed as the first Global Brand Ambassador of the World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations. I’m also an Area Representative Coordinator and an International Trainer for tourist guides. Have a Masters Degree on Tourism Administration from the George Washington University in 1993. I am based in Washington, DC since 1984 and live 2 months of the year in Manila where I teach at DeLaSalle Universities.

The impact of the role of a tourist guide in rebuilding travel is an ongoing task and requires a lot of concentrated focus and dedication. Joining forums like this enables one to share and receive stories from others and get to understand the value of a tourist guide in the tourism chain. I love listening to Dr Taleb Rifai and Dr Peter Tarlow and the other speakers that speak from a lot of experience and authenticity.

If anyone should be recognized as a tourism hero due to the COVID-19 situation, it has to be Maricar.

Here is the story:
It started in March and ended in May when Maricar took care of Francoise Kameni Lele who was on her way home to Yaounde, Cameroon. This was only possible due to o the unselfish work of an unemployed tour guide by the name of Maricar Donato from Washington DC, Mistral Anampa from Maryland,  David Herb and Clara Sachs from New Jersey, USA.

COVID-19  cannot destroy the commitment by a true leader in the travel and tourism industry. These true leaders are tour guides and members of the World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations. (WFTGA), eTurboNews declared them as eTN heroes. Watch the video on why.

The story is the story of a stranded tourist from Cameroon by the name Francoise Kameni Lele.  She is also a member of the travel and tourism industry and an ambassador for the African Tourism Board  (ATB) in Cameroon.  It all started when she left Cameroon to Berlin, Germany.

She was planning to attend the ITB travel exhibition and a March 4 meeting organized by ATB, PATA and SaferTourism and this publication. Ironically the meeting was organized to discuss the impact of Coronavirus on travel and tourism.

ITB was canceled and ever since Francoise was unable to find her way back home to Cameroon. She left for New York, back to Frankfurt, again to New York, and is finally now onboard a B787 Dreamliner ET509 to Addis Ababa. It was a horrifying experience, but she has a new best friend, who is an un-selfish tour guide in Washington DC and now an eTN hero by the name of Maricar Donato.

Maricar told eTurboNews today: “What Francoise told me today really grabbed me and will do so for a long time. She said: If not for your help I would have committed suicide.”

Tourism is an industry of peace and friendship. No one knows this more as Louis D’Amore, president and founder of the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism.  Calling from his home in New York he said:

“I was very sorry to learn of the many difficulties Francois had to endure as a result of the Pandemic. I have known Francois for more than 20 years. Francoise always selflessly has been giving herself to contribute to the greater good of African Tourism. It is heartwarming to learn how tourism guides of different ethnicity and faiths came together to assist Francois in her time of need – demonstrating the true spirit of hospitality and the fundamental principle of all faiths “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and, on reflection as a Christian during this fifth week of Easter, “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Today Francoise Kameni Lele finally left Newark, New Jersey on a flight onboard Ethiopian Airlines to Addis Ababa. She is finally on her way home to Yaounde in Cameroon.

A week earlier Maricar posted to her Facebook saying: “Delivered some goodies from the local tourist guide community to Cameroon’s top guide, François Kameni, who is stranded here unable to get home from a conference. Maricar Donato, area representative, and coordinator of the World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations has been spearheading the effort to help out our fellow guide.

François is also VP of the African baseball confederation so I had to take her to the youth academy and Nats Park. It was a good exercise and a fun day.

Francoise was caught in the midst of countries closing borders and unable to return home as scheduled more than 2 months ago. Her attempt to leave was cut short at Frankfurt International Airport when she was refused transit to France to catch a flight to Cameroon and sent back to the United States.

After arriving in the U.S. one hotel after another Francoise stayed in closed when the virus spread aggressively in New York. She left for Washington DC hoping also to get help from her embassy.

When eTurboNews published her story eTN Reader Maricar Donato reached out to Francoise in her role as the brand ambassador of the World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations. (WFTGA)

There was no paying guide business for self-employed Maricar, but it didn’t stop her to use her own money and time to help a fellow member of the travel and tourism industry.  With hotels closed she organized a basement room at a Cameroon-American member of her community for Francoise.

Today WFTGA tour guides Mistral Anampa from Maryland,  David Herb and Clara Sachs from New Jersey drove Francoise from Washington DC to Newark International Airport in New Jersey. Together with a representative of the Embassy of Cameroon in the USA, they made sure Francoise checked in and boarded her flight to Africa.

Her farewell text to eTurboNews said: “Jürgen, I’m at the boarding gate and on my way back home. COVID19 will Nevers stop tourism. The sky is your limit.”

There is a very sad part to this incredible story. The host for Francoise organized by Maricar recently passed away on complications due to COVID-19