Cuenca Mayor Marcelo Cabrera and local business leaders agree on one thing. A year from now, with the tranvía and airport in full operation, the city’s economy — particularly the tourism sector — will be poised for a strong rebound. In the meantime, the delays in tram construction and restrictions on airport use are hammering local businesses.
According to tourism and industry representatives at a Tuesday meeting in the mayor’s office, many of the city’s businesses are struggling to survive, and dozens have gone out of business as a result of airport and tram problems. “There is tremendous pain right now among our members,” says Patricio Miller, who heads an organization of Azuay tourism operators. “Many businesses have not survived. We need solutions urgently,” he said.
Patricio said that occupancy rates are less than 30% for city hotels and hostels, and said that most businesses cannot survive unless the situation improves soon.
Cabrera apologized for the damages suffered by businesses and says he is considering several ways to provide relief. “We inherited the problems with the tram and I have spent much of my time in office trying to fix them,” he said. “We finally have a schedule that people can rely on and the train will running in less than a year.”
He said that repair work at the airport will begin next month and will be completed in September. “I also understand the pain caused by the airport closure,” Cabrera said. “There are many factors involved in the situation, and we had to consult national and well as local entities for a solution. Again, this will be resolved soon.”
Some business leaders questioned the dates that work on the airport runway will begin. “The director said last week that it would start August 8 and now he says August 15,” said store owner Jaime Moreno. “What is the truth?”
Cabrera responded that August 15 is the target date but that it could be pushed back “by a few days” by legal issues.