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Cuenca tourism is poised for rebound, say industry leaders; Return of jet fuel subsidy is big boost

Owners of Cuenca hotels, tour agencies, and restaurants believe that tourism in the city is poised for strong growth.

Cuenca hotel owners are optimistic about tourism grwoth.

“There are several reasons for optimism, especially last week’s announcement about the return of the airline fuel subsidy,” says historic district hotel owner José Serrano. “Our selection two months ago as the best place for vacations in South America is one of them. This has been reported on tv and in the international travel magazines. Another reason is that work on the tranvía is beginning again — I am keeping my fingers crossed — and it could be finished by the end of next year.”

Serrano and other owners point to the increased number of tourists attending events of Cuenca’s independence holiday as a strong indicator for optimism. “We estate there were 120,000 out-of-town tourists in Cuenca for the holidays,” says Juan Pablo Vanegas, president of the Hotel Association of Azuay. “Last year, we had about 90,000 and hotel rooms were 80% full. This year we had 100% occupancy.”

Local officials anticipate a strong growth in the tourism sector.

Cuenca could easily become the third major tourist destination in Ecuador, after Quito and the Galapagos Islands, say Fidel Fajardo, a tourism professor at the University of Guayaquil. “Almost all the reports on the city in travel magazines and tour websites give it rave reviews,” he says. “People trust what they read in Conde Nast Traveller, National Geographic, the New Yorker, and television network sites, and Cuenca gets glowing reports.”

Like Serrano, Vanegas believes the tram could become a big draw for Cuenca. “Today, everyone is sick of it and it’s a sore point with hotels and other businesses that have been hurt by construction,” he says. “Once it starts running, however, and once word gets out that you can get from the airport and bus station to the historic district in five minutes, it will be a big draw. This will be reported in the travel media and could have the same impact on the city as it did in Bordeaux (France).”

He adds: “In Bordeaux, everyone hated the tram while it was being built. It was behind schedule and over budget and causing distress among business long the line. And, just like in Cuenca, the locals said it would never work. Well guess what? Once it was completed the tourists loved it and helped to revive Bordeaux’s tourism.”

Serrano, Vanegas and Fajardo agree that the most important immediate factor in reviving tourism is the airline fuel subsidy. “By the end of the year, the number of flights to Cuenca increases by 75% and fares drop by 30% to 50%,” he says. This will spur real growth for our sector.”

35 thoughts on “Cuenca tourism is poised for rebound, say industry leaders; Return of jet fuel subsidy is big boost

  1. Once tourists have to show proof of health insurance (Travel Insurance) to enter the country set to begin February 6th, 2018 that will likely negatively impact the tourism industry.

    1. Once you stop saying that tourists will have to show proof of health insurance, that rumor will die and in a short time, we will all laugh at the gullible ones that believed such nonsense.

                1. Yes, I agree. Define the terms of the bet and I’ll put up $100 (or any reasonable amount you suggest) and we can agree on a neutral party to hold the money. I suggest Jonathan Mogrovejo, the editor of CHL. What are your thoughts?

      1. As well, strange that someone who is a diehard capitalist would be against gas subsidies that supports business.

    2. Happily for Ecuador, you are wrong. Those on a tourist visa are not required to show proof of health insurance..unless they want to stay more than the standard 90 days and apply for extension.

    3. I agree with the previous responses. If necessary, travel insurance is an inexpensive option for those without health insurance. For those tourists with health insurance provided through their employers, insurance coverage for travel outside of the U.S. is usually provided, as are tourists covered by Medicare. I believe, in those cases, only a valid, current insurance card is necessary.

    4. Tourists will not have to show proof of insurance! What they say they will do is different from what they actually will do!

  2. I feel the lack of decent airline connections to and from the US is the biggest factor affecting American tourism. Getting to Cuenca through either Quito or Guayaquil almost always requires an overnight stay because flights don’t connect. Getting back is almost as bad because the flights are all “red-eyes”! Until the schedule of existing flights is revised or the airport in Cuenca is upgraded to permit direct flights to and from the US, a visit to Cuenca is only for the truly determined.

    1. Marty&susanne, Cuenca is currently looking into options for expanding/lengthening their airport runways. However, at this time, the current runway length at the Cuenca airport is not sufficient to accommodate landing the larger aircraft needed for long haul flights. (It would be like expecting a 747 to be able to land at the Bradford (PA) Airport or the Sedona (AZ) Airport.) However, not only is Cuenca worth the overnight stay in Quito or Guayaquil, I think those of us who frequently travel from the US to and from Cuenca hope the 75% increase in new flights to/from Cuenca will allow for better connections times between arriving/departing international flights into Quito and Guayaquil. (By the way, there is good ground transportation between the Guayaquil airport and Cuenca. The drive is about 2 hours, I believe.)

      1. Obviously you don’t live here and it is a disservice to opine on matters you have no knowledge. Ground transportation takes anywhere from 3-4 hours, depending which mode you take, with private car being fastest and intercity buses taking up to 4 hours. Both times I cite assume no delays and in reality, there are lots of delays.

      2. the drive is minimum 3 hours and in a busita about 4 hours,,,, But of course, staying in Quito or GYE for one night is not the end of the world either

      3. You could check the metal going from GYE and UIO to US. A lot of time those are a320 a319 b 737. Those can land in Cuenca. Flights to MIA are only 4 hours. It’s not a long haul.

  3. For non-American expats:

    If one has non-Ecuadorian insurance, they can have the
    Ecuadorian consulate from their originating country confirm this with a letter, and that is sufficient for Ecuadorian entry. National Health plans are extremely easy to confirm and always universal without exclusions. As a rule, all National Health plans cover their citizens EVERYWHERE on the planet except the USA. (Most of us are advised by our governments to obtain a private supplementary
    policy for each trip to the US.)

    For those of us who have given up their former (free) National Health coverage due to long absence, coverage is re-activated merely by moving back for a period of 6+ months. Sadly, 1000s of us in Ecuador are lumped in with Americans, and pay as if we are part of a much lower standard of health AND might need care here for the rest of our LIVES rather than months! The extra costs we must pay are enormous!

    Lastly, as always, currently very few know what the new rules really are..especially the Ecuadorian government offices here and abroad. To that, add predators busily signing up scared customers to unnecessary, substandard or bogus insurance in restaurants/bars.

    1. Not exactly. Foreign health insurance has to be “certified” that it meets Ecuador’s requirement for full coverage and is at minimum a 80/20 policy. For instance, Tri Care which is a 75/25 policy won’t qualify for certification.

      1. (smile) You forget. All national health plans are universal, unlimited and without exclusions. In fact, the local staff at the consulate would all be covered by the same system. Certification would be a breeze. I gather you have no experience of such systems. On the other hand, like other non-Americans, I have no experience with rigors and risks of analyzing and insuring my personal health risks. Macabre.

    2. “The extra costs we must pay are enormous!”

      Poor, poor Julius. I’m going to set up a collection plate for you in Parque Calderon tomorrow morning.

      Are you going to fill in for Ricki, becoming the new resident complainer about how mistreated you are? Those of us that have worked all our lives for everything we ever received, really feel badly for you.

      1. Hi SW! I am writing this again..more as a test than anything else. Many replies to you don’t get posted and that is curious. It is odd enough for you to be raised as one of the many dinner topics the other night. How you get away with a level of bile that no one else can here? You must be very close with CHL.

        As for your “Julius” is apparent that you still haven’t figured it out yet. We all got a laugh over that one. Keep it up.

        1. Hi Julius! This part of my reply is truly meant in all sincerity (the rest, maybe not so much) but hearing that you are being censored rankles me very much. I know there are those out there that find it trite and possibly insincere when I post the notion that I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend with my life your right to say it. My father fought for and nearly gave his life in furtherance of that notion and censorship of any sort is something that I can’t countenance.

          As for your complaint that you are being treated unfairly, let me assure you that some (not many these days) of my posts also never see the light of day and that bothers me as well. How can we ever know if there is a disparity in the way I’m treated by CHL and the way you and others are treated?

          As for the whole Julius thing, I mistakenly thought you’d eventually figure all that out, but apparently I was giving you too much credit for insightfulness. Perhaps if you try to develop an understanding of the term “metaphor” you will catch on. Good luck.

          Regards to Mary,


  4. Back in 2014 my husband and I were able to get connecting flights — only on a Friday — from Chicago to Cuenca in 11 hours, with only 2 stops. That has not been possible since then. I’m hoping the airline industry will make this possible again! I expect this would boost tourism.

    1. Cheryl, There is currently a daily choice of inexpensive flights Chicago/Quito. Try Avianca, Copa, Aeromexico…with one stop, about 8 1/2 hours. The more you stick to US carriers only, the harder it is to travel to places that the US is not happy with. There are also find direct flights to and from Ecuador from many major European cities.

  5. If the prices of restaurants, hotels and bars do not become more economical and go down, Cuenca will continue to receive
    less tourists. The prices in Cuenca are even higher than most places in the USA. Cuencanos, wake up!!!!!

    1. strongly disagree, where in the US can you find a decent three course almuerzo for only $2.50. Or 3.00?

    2. fernando, if you would stop eating at Burger King and McDonalds, where the prices ARE higher than in the U.S., you will probably realize that prices in Cuenca are far lower than in the U.S., in general. Show me anywhere in the U.S. where you can get an almuerzo for $2.50.

  6. I just checked fares to Quito. They still charging the same prices up to $120 one way. Do they just pocket subsidy? It’s crazy to give them subsidy without limit on prices.

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