Cuenca tourism officials are urging local hotels, hostals and businesses to do a better of job of accommodating the city’s growing number of tourists.
The current independence celebration has left late-arriving travelers with limited lodging options and the Azuay Hotel Association is urging hotel managers to report vacancies to the association or the municipal tourist agency, iTur, to coordinate lodging needs.
Cuenca tourism and hospitality officials say that the need to improve services to travelers, both foreign and local, is becoming a year-round objective.
The officials say that tourism growth in Cuenca and Azuay Province is the fastest of any area of the country, running at annual rates of 15% to 20%. The city has become especially popular with Europeans due to media coverage promoting it as a top emerging Latin American destination.
Daniel Hernandez, president of the Hotel Association of Azuay (AHA), also asked local businesses to stay open or extend operating hours during the holidays to accommodate travelers. “Our tradition has been to close up our stores during periods of festivities, but with growing numbers of tourists we need to change this pattern,” he says. Hernandez said that the problem of closings also extends to public facilities such as galleries and museums. “I am urging public officials to extend their hours too.”
Francisco Ochoa, vice president of the Azuay Chamber of Tourism, agreed with Hernandez about the need to take care of tourists. “It is endless struggle to keep shops and museums open to the public, especially on holidays and weekends. We need to realize that times are changing and we must change with them.”
"We work hard to bring people to our city,” he says, “and it is important that we give our visitors a good reason to be here. “We have the beautiful views, the great architechture and the rich history but we also need the shops, restaurants, bars, museums to remain open to make Cuenca a more hospitable city."
According to Ochoa, the main challenge is “opening the minds of the local community.” He adds: “We have to make a small sacrifice at least on weekends and holidays," he said. “I should also add that the tourist boom is a great opportunity for the local businesses to make more money.”
Photo: Cuenca's independence celebration lights up the night.