Boutique hotels in Cuenca’s historic district are sprouting up all over.
The provincial association of hoteliers reports that 10 new hotels have opened in the past 18 months and that other projects are either under construction or in the planning stage. The new hotels have increased the number of hotel beds in Cuenca from about 5,500 to 6,200 in that period, the association says.
According to association president Daniel Hernandez, the boom is the result of increasing numbers of tourists and their desire to stay in the historic district. “Visitors have read that Cuenca is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and they want to be part of the heritage. El Centro continues to grow in popularity,” he says.
Hernandez says that the large supply of older homes in the historic district are excellent candidates for conversion to boutique hotels. Once single family homes, the houses were converted to apartments over the years as many Cuenca famlies relocated to the suburbs. Subsequently, many of the houses were vacated entirely and have fallen into disrepair.
“The new hotels are helping to redevelop the historic district,” says Daniel Jaramillo, director of historic district development. “This, along with several new residential projects are bringing people back to the center to live, and making it the most popular part of the city.” He adds that dozens of foreigners are living in the district, and more are on the way. "We also believe that the Travia, the new light rail system, will increase the number of people moving in."
It is not only the historic district that is seeing hotel construction. A 50-room, six floor hotel is under construction on Avenida del Estadio, across from the Alejandro Serrano Aguilar football stadium. To be called Zahir 360, the owners say it will cater to business travlers and tourists when it opens in 2014. It will feature four levles of underground parking, two restaurants, formal and informal conference rooms, a gym, sauna, and green space.
A proposed Marriott hotel that would be built adjacent to the Millenium Plaza remains in negotiations with city officials.
A third larger hotel project, which will renovate a 40-year-old six-story building in the historic district, will begin by the end of the year. Located on Simon Bolivar, three blocks east of Parque Calderon, the hotel will be operated by the University of Cuenca hospitality school.
According to the Chamber of Tourism, increasing tourism justified the need for additional rooms. Monica Flores, president of the Chamber, points out that there is severe lack of accommodations during holidays and festivals. “Everything was booked for Cuenca’s Independence in November and this is happening more and more often.”
Flores said that she expects to see a five-star hotel move into the Cuenca market soon. “Because of our growth, there is a real need.” Cuenca currently has several four-star hotels.
Expat, German tourist found dead in condo, hotel
The bodies of a Cuenca expat and a German tourist were found Thurday and moved to the city morgue at Vicente Corral Moscoso Hospital.
U.S. citizen Marc Eugene Shulteiss died of an apparent heart attack, according to autopsy results, at his condominium in Edificio Olimpio at Manuel Quiroga at Juan Pío Montúfar.
The dead German tourist was identified as Jurguen Bernard Ewin, age 74. His body was found in his rented room in Hostal Amazonas on Calle Madrid at Av. España. A hospital spokesman said that Ewin appeared to have been dead for several days and probably died of natural causes.
Photo caption: Casa San Rafael, at Simon Bolivar and Mariano Cueva, is one of the new hotels that has opened its door since late 2011.