CUENCA DIGESTAgreement will improve tourism statistics; Coopera arraignments today; weather pattern to continue

Oct 16, 2013

Cuenca’s tourism foundation has signed an agreement with the University of Cuenca’s School of Hospitality Sciences to develop more accurate tourism statistics.

Gladys Eljuri, executive director of the foundation, says accurate numbers will help her office plan for the rapid increase of tourists visiting the city. chl tourists3
“Now, we only have estimates that are provided by hotel owners, travel agencies, airlines and bus companies,” she says. “If we have more reliable information it will allow us to improve our planning and tell us where to commit financial resources.”

In addition to numbers, the University of Cuenca will also provide profiles of tourists including which countries they come from, where they stay, what they do and their opinions about the city’s tourist services.

In recent years, Eljuri says the annual number of tourists visiting Cuenca has risen dramatically. Her office estimates 10% annual growth in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and 20% growth in 2012 and 2013.

One result of having accurate numbers, she says, is to provide those considering investing in hotels and hostals information on which to base construction plans.

Daniel Hernandez, president of the Association of Hoteliers in Azuay province, says that while the average annual hotel occupancy is a little more than 50%, rooms are full during several holiday periods. He says he sees the demand growing. There are about 6,000 hotel rooms in Cuenca and Azuay province, he says.

Cuenca receives about 600,000 tourists annually, according to Eljuri.

Coopera arraignments scheduled today

Nine defendants in the Coopera money laudering and embezzlement case have been ordered to appear in court today for formal arraignment, including four that are still at large. Three of those charged have been held in pre-trial detention since the financial cooperative was shut down by federal officials in June.
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Among those appearing at today’s hearing are Coopera general manager Rodrigo Aucay, chief financial officer Aldo Santiago Calle and auditor Raúl Efraín Carpio. They were arrested for laundering money through several Coopera accounts in unspecified transactions with Venezuelan banks. Embezzlement charges were added in August.

Although more than 99% of Coopera’s 116,000 account holders have been repaid, about 670 with larger accounts have not. The money owed to unpaid members amounts to 60% to 70% of all investments.

Many of the unpaid members will be in court today while others will statge a sit-in outside the court.

Gustavo Quito, attorney for unpaid members, says his group is demanding the arrests of 30 more people linked to the case. He says that coop members have filed 180 charges against former Coopera board of directors members and managers of the institution.

Link between alcohol and violence examined

In a survey of 5,000 Ceuncanos, 98% of respondents said that alcohol was the number one factor in local crime.

Fabiola Ochoa, director of the Cuenca Safety Council says that alcohol is also the major factor in traffic accidents, vandalism and social mis-behavior in general. In a workshop on Wednesday, she also said that 60% of domestic violence cases involve alcohol use. “We must continue to advocate measures to reduce the excessive  consumption of alcohol, especially among young people,” she said.

Maria Elena Rosero, director of the drug use prevention office of the national Ministry of Interior, one of the speakers at the workshop, said that drinking is a part of Ecuaodian culture but it needs more controls. “It is part of many ceremonies, such as baptisms and weddings, and this will not change. However, we need to increase our efforts to educate our youth so they understand the consequences of too much drinking,” she said.

The conference continues on Wednesday with a focus on alcohol consumption among adolescents.

Nationally, Ecuador has some of the most restrictive laws on alcoholc sales in Latin American. It also has some of the highest alcohol taxes. In 2009, legislation ordered the country’s bars and restaurants to quit selling alcohol after midnight and banned Sunday sales outright.

The Cuenca cantonal council is currently looking at proposals to increase restrictions on sale of alcohol as well as ways the stop underage drinking. The proposals includes a ban on sales in some neighborhood tiendas and stiffer penalties for bar owners who sell to minors.

Afternoon rains will continue, weatherman says

The National Institute of Merteorology says that the current pattern of morning sunshine and afternoon rain will continue for at least another week.

The rains have caused several landslides in the area, including some that have blocked roads and highways. There have also been several cases of localized flooding.

Lincoln Cevallos of the weather institute says the weather is not atypical for this time of year. “We are entering a short winter period in which patterns are established for several days at a time,” he said. “The morning sun creates the heat that develops the afternoon and evening rain. We will not have rain every day but it’s always possible this time of year.”

Photo captions: The number of tourists visiting Cuenca continues to rise; Rodrigo Aucay, former general manager of Coopera, is one of those appearing in court today.

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