While the government maintains that the time it will take airline passengers to get back and forth between downtown and the new Quito airport at Tababela will be about an hour, taxi drivers and private bus operators say is will be closer to one and a half to two hours. There is also disagreement about what taxis should charge for the trip, with airport officials saying that $15 to $20 is reasonable while taxi operators say the charge will be $30 or higher.
Although the new airport, which opens Feb. 20, is only 15 miles from downtown Quito, there are six road consruction projects underway on the route that make drive time calculations problematic.
Taxi driver Jose Gonzalez says there is no way to get air passengers from the new airport to downtown hotels in an hour. “Maybe they are figuring the trip in the middle of the night but most travelers will arrive during the day when traffic is heavy,” he says. “I agree that the trip will be quicker once the construction is finished but I don’t think the government is figuring how rapidly the population is growing in the suburbs near the airport. Many people believe that the improvements will only handle the new traffic and not make a big difference in the time it takes to get to Quito.”
Airport and municipal officials, on the other hand, claim that even with the current construction, private transportation companies are exaggerating travel time and that once construction is completed in 18 months, the trip will be much quicker. "We agree that the commute between the airport and city will be difficult at first but it will improve as the roads are completed," says airport spokesman Jhon Calderon. "We ask that everyone, including travelers and taxi drivers, be patient. We are doing everything we can to make the transition smooth."
National business groups have predicted that the extended drive time between the airport and Quito will mean a reduction of in-country flights in and out of Quito and Cuenca airport officials say that the number of flights between Quito and Cuenca may be reduced as a result.
Alternative engery sees major investment in Ecuador
The government says that 15 new solar energy projects will be on-line by 2015, representing more than $700 million of private investments. In addition, half a dozen wind power operations are also scheduled to tie into Ecuador’s power grid within three years.
Taken together, the projects will generate 427.7 megawatts of power, or about 40 percent of the megawatts generated at the Paute hydroelectric plant, currently the country’s largest source of electricity.
According to the National Electrification Board (CONELEC), the new alternative energies sources plus two large hydroelectric plants under constrtuction near Quito and Cuenca, will make give Ecuador a surplus of engery that it can sell to neighboring Colombia and Peru.
Investors in the alternative energy projects represent companies and consortia from Spain, Canada, the U.S., China and Germany, CONELEC says.
Tourism minister pushes concept of ‘conscious tourism’
Ecuador Minister of Tourism Freddy Ehlers says his office is promoting a new type of tourism. “We want to escape from the traditional mercantilist approach to tourism, and introduce a concept of coexistence between tourists and the communities that provide the attractions that people come to see.”
Speaking at a conference in Valencia, Spain, Ehlers, explained that the concept is "a very different approach from traditional tourism and will be guided by sustainability principles and ethics."
He said that the traditional model of tourism, based on the profit motive, often treats native people unfairly. “You can have a system that is stronger than the current one by treating people with fairness, dignity, and equality. The aim is to create a closeness between people of different origins, cultural backgrounds and ways of understanding the world and cultures," he said.
Ecuador moves up in international ‘connectivity’ ranking
Although it ranks only 99th among the world's nations for ‘connectivity,' it is moving up rapidly in the rankings.
According to the Global Connectivity Index, which compiles the poll, 'connectivity' includes Internet- and telephone-based and other forms of electronic communication, in commerce, trade and education.
The index reports that Ecuador has moved up seven positions in the rankings since 2011 and now comes in at number 13 among Latin American countries, ahead of Colombia but behind Peru.
Photo Caption: An artist's vision of the new airport at Tababela.