Ecuador’s new Minister of Tourism Vinicio Alvarado says he wants to turn the country into a “tourism powerhouse,” announcing that the government will invest $600 million in tourism advertising and development over the next four years.
In addition to getting the word out to world tourists, Alvarado says the goal is to provide more security and better services, promote destinations and products, and offer more connectivity.
“We’re seeking to gain the full confidence of tourists and make a good first impression,” he said. “This includes the point of arrival, efficient transportation, medical services and food.”
The aim is the continuous expansion and improvement of the country’s tourism destinations. Ecuador plans to expand new routes, improve access, signage, telephone services, Internet and access to tourism information. Its promotional efforts will focus on advertising the country’s qualities to a global audience, Alvarado said.
“What we’re seeing now is the result of that effort,” she said. “The theme of heritage and culture is our strength, but we’re trying to help people discover that Quito is more than that.”
Luz Elena Coloma, the head of Quito Turismo, said the goal is to turn Quito into a major center for conventions and events.
Tourism officials in Cuenca, another destination growing rapidly in tourist appeal, say they are working with national tourism officials to make the UNESCO World Heritage Site even more appealing. Tourism to Cuenca has shown double-digit annual growth in recent years.
Peruvian Nora Regio, a mountain climber, is an example Ecuador’s recent tourists.
“We have beautiful mountains in Peru, but climbing Cotopaxi and Chimborazo (the main volcanoes in Ecuador) has always been on my to-do list,” Regio, 54, said. “To me, they’re the most beautiful in South America.”
Covering just 283,561 square kilometers, Ecuador is one of the world’s most biologically diverse countries, featuring warm beaches, active volcanoes and dense forests.
The country is home to about 25,000 species of plants, 1,600 species of birds, 4,500 species of butterflies, 350 species of reptiles, 375 species of amphibians and 320 species of mammals, according to a report by Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral (ESPOL), an Ecuadoran university.
From January through June 2013, the country received 795,942 tourists, an increase of 37,948 visitors compared to the same period in 2012.
Last year, 1.2 million tourists visited the country, up 12% from 2011, according to Ecuador’s Ministry of Tourism.
The majority of tourists come from Colombia, the United States, Peru, Spain and Germany.
Tourism is the country’s fifth largest industry, after oil, bananas, shrimp and petroleum derivatives. During the first quarter of this year, tourism generated $296.9 million, up $46.6 million from the same period in 2012
Such publications and webesites as Live and Invest Overseas and International Living, as well as other international media have helped to boost Ecuador’s appeal. Recently, International Living named Ecuador the best place to retire for the fifth straight year. They have also named Cuenca as the top retirement destination in the world.
“In Ecuador it is possible to have a good quality of life at a reasonable price,” Inrternational Living said. “Wherever you go, you will find friendly people who are happy to welcome you to their beautiful country. Also, you can see the enormous amount of respect that the people of Ecuador have for the elderly.”
Although Quito and Cuenca are attracting more tourists, the country’s number one destination remains the Galápagos Islands, which are visited by 15% of tourists to Ecuador.
This natural paradise is 972 kilometers from the continental coast of Ecuador and was declared a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site in 1979.
The islands welcomed 180,831 visitors – 69% of them foreigners – in 2012, according to the Galápagos National Park.
Credit: http://infosurhoy.com; photo captions: Quito, Galapagos