Since it passed the 500,000 population mark less than a decade ago, Cuenca has been attracting the attention of international food, clothing and lodging companies.
Although the trend started with a trickle, Latin American marketing expert Mark Levine says that more franchises will soon be setting up shop in Cuenca. “It won’t be a flood but, because of Cuenca’s demographics, more companies are definitely on the way,” he said.
Levine, whose consulting business is based in Miami and Bogota, says that Cuenca is attractive for a number of reasons. “Per capita, it’s the most prosperous city in Ecuador, which is to say that it has the largest middle class. Besides that, it has a growing tourist base and is attracting foreign residents.”
Among the food franchices currently with outlets in Cuenca are Burger King, Pizza Hut, Subway, California Barito, Papa John’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Coffee Tree. Others researching a move to the city are TGI Fridays and McDonalds.
Most of the food franchise are located in the city’s largest shopping malls.
There are also a number of clothing franchises in the city, including Payless Shoes and Boudin’s. Levin says that three hotel chains are considering expansion to Cuenca and that Marriott is already in negotiation with the city to build a hotel near Millenium Plaza.
TOUGH DRIVING LAWS CREDITED FOR REDUCTION OF ACCIDENTS
Authorities credit new speeding laws with a 15% reduction in traffic accidents since 2011 in Cuenca and Azuay Province.
Azuay governor Humberto Cordero says that the reduction, form 966 to 857 accidents, is the result of new laws putting more police on roads and highways to enforce speeding and driving laws. The enforcemet has resulted in the arrests of 401 speeders and 236 drunk drivers, up almost 40% from the same period of 2011. The new laws mandates 3-day jail sentences for those caught driving in excess of 30 kilometers an hour over the speed limit, and for drunk drivers.
Fabian Andrade, chief of the Azuay traffic police, says word of the new rules has gotten through to drivers. “People are aware that the police are watching, and no one wants an expensive speeding ticket or three nights in jail.”
Andrade said that police checks will be increased during the holiday season, with special focus on highways between Cuenca and Yunguilla.
UNESCO DESIGNATION BRINGS MORE TOURISTS, OFFICIALS SAY
City officials say that more than 200,000 tourists are expected to visit Cuenca in 2012, up from about 60,000 in 2002. They credit the increase to the historic district’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The designation was made in 1999 and covers an area of 245 hectares. According to Daniel Astudillo, director of the city’s historical and heritage areas foundation, the UNESCO honor is based on 10 criteria and requires the city to mantain strict architectural and cultural standards.
Astudillo says that the designation has resulted in dozens of renovation projects in the historic disrict, many of them by new boutique hotels. He says another half dozen hotels are planning to locate in the district.