ACCESS CUENCAOther than peak periods, there’s plenty of room at the inn

Dec 21, 2010

In a newspaper story translated by and posted on this website, the Ecuadorian Minister of Tourism claimed that Cuenca receives approximately 100,000 out-of-town visitors annually. If this is accurate, that averages out to a little less than 300 per night.   

Naturally, this doesn’t account for high times: Christmas, New Year’s, the week of All Saints and Cuenca Independence days (November 3), Cuenca’s birthday (April 12), and Corpus Cristi (mid-June), when Cuenca is way overbooked.   

According to iTur, Cuenca’s tourism agency, Cuenca offers 5,000 what they call “places,” which probably translates to beds on a one-person one-bed basis (unlike how it’s measured in the States: by rooms).   

So, if 300 visitors are occupying places in Cuenca on an average night, that leaves roughly 4,700 empty places/beds in the city. If an initial investigation into Cuenca’s hotel-room situation is any indication, that sounds about right.   

Over a two-week period last October, Shirlee and I looked at rooms in more than three dozen Cuenca accommodations. In only one, La Castellana Hotel on Luis Cordero, every room was occupied. Why this particular inn was sold out was difficult to discern in Spanish, though it’s practically next door to Simon Bolivar, a popular Spanish school.   

Otherwise, in inn after inn, we saw as many rooms as we wanted to and it seemed like no one at all was staying at a number of them. Of course, most are small and family-run, with overhead and labor costs so low that they need only a guest or two per night to survive. So except for the handful of hyper times of year, you’re a stone-cold shoe-in to find a great room at a great price in Cuenca, no matter what your taste or budget.   

The Associacíon Hotelera del Azuay separates its affiliate lodgings into a variety of categories: hotel, hostal, inn, hostal residencial,pensión, apartamento, and hostería. And then they have classes for the hotels and hostals: lujo (deluxe, hotel only), plus primera, segunda, and tercera (first-, second-, and third-class). The distinctions between hotels and hostals, let alone among the three classes, were often lost on us. Sometimes we thought they served to distinguish size, quality, and price, but other times we weren’t so sure. 

Regardless of official designations, in future installments here at CuencaHighLife.com and on AccessEcuador.com, I’ll cover all the accommodations we inspected and provide recommendations for Cuenca’s best places to stay in terms of value, location, ambience, and amenities.   

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