The Azuay Province Chamber of Tourism wants more small buses, or busetas, transporting travelers to and from Cuenca. It also supports legislation that would allow tour van companies to legally join the inter-provincial transportation market.
According to Patricio Miller, president of the Azuay Chamber of Tourism, there is the potential to double the number of passengers traveling between Cuenca, Guayaquil, Loja and Quito in busetas and vans. “We see the possibility of high growth with this mode of transportation, which means more tourists visiting Cuenca,” he says. “First, we need to legalize passenger service by tour van companies and encourage them to convert to busetas.”
Under current law, it is illegal for tour van companies to provide general transportation services, although many do illegally, often paying high fines when they are caught. Most tour van operations use small seven- and eight-passenger vans. Legislation is pending in the National Assembly to legalize passenger service for the van companies. “Passage of a new law is essential for increasing the number of tourists coming to Cuenca,” Miller says.
A survey conducted by the tourism chamber shows a strong preference for busetas, which can carry 15 to 20 passengers, over vans. “The busetas are more comfortable and safer and appeal more to middle-class travelers,” Miller says. “The option is air travel but prices have become too high for many travelers and air connections to Guayaquil are limited and are non-existent to Loja.”
Round-trip air fare from Cuenca to Guayaquil averages $120 while buseta service is $24.
According to the study, there are currently 116,442 van and buseta trips per year from Cuenca to Guayaquil, 29,434 to Loja, and 13,303 to Quito. With legalization of van service, this would increase to 232,155 for Guayaquil, 122,009 for Loja and 91,248 for Quito.
“Our immediate goal is to expand van service through legislation,” says Miller. “This will allow the tour companies to upgrade to busetas.”
Miller says he has the support of the Azuay National Assembly delegation to revise the transportation law.