Cuenca, Quito and Guayaquil and the Ecuadorian Ministry of Tourism are teaming up to develop a five-year tourism marketing plan. The goal, according to the ministry, is to achieve annual tourism growth of 16% by 2014. Growth in the past five years has averaged 10%, although some areas of the country, including Cuenca, have averaged about 15%.
According to marketing plan directors, Cuenca will be the rising star among Ecuador's tourist attractions.
In addition to attracting greater numbers of tourists, the ministry hopes to increase the average length of stay and spending per tourist, says Gustavo Bassoti, co-director of the marketing plan. “We think our projections are realistic, even considering the worldwide recession. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) recently adjusted upward our growth numbers for the last few years and they believe the trend will continue.”
According to Bassoti, Ecuador’s marketing plan will stress ecologically sustainable tourism, emphasizing the enormous natural diversity of the country. “We will also bring attention to our great indigenous culture,” he says. “This is as much of an Ecuadorian treasure as our colonial cities and the Galapagos.”
Of all of the country’s attractions, Bassoti believes that the city of Cuenca holds the most potential. “Cuenca is being discovered but its attractions are still little known to most tourists,” he says. “All of the recent media attention about Cuenca is opening people's eyes.”
In December 2008, Cuenca was ranked 49th by National Geographic magazine in a list of the world’s greatest historic cities. Earlier, the German magazine Stern awarded Cuenca the “best place to live” title in Latin American for foreigners.
This month, International Living magazine, a publication targeting potential expatriates in North America and the U.K., named Cuenca the best city in the world for retirees.
“We believe tourist growth in Cuenca could run as high as 20% a year,” Bassoti says. “For years, Cuenca has been a kind of step-sister to Quito. In the future, we believe that Cuenca will join the Galapagos Islands and Quito as one of the three major destinations in Ecuador.”
Photo caption: Tour coordinator William H. Coleman Co., brought a group of 200 international tour guides to Cuenca in May.