By Robert Bradley
It may come as no surprise but being pampered while surrounded in natural beauty and enjoying fine dinners in a safe environment are the top requirements of people over 65 when planning their Ecuador vacation.
Norma Cristina Bock, professor at the School of Hospitality and Tourism at University of the Americas (Udla), puts it this way: “The bar has been raised for everyone. At one time, destinations that offered basic spa services, had impressive geological features, or limited opportunities for fine dining was enough, but no more. Senior customers are arriving with higher expectations and meeting these is essential to Ecuador’s continued success as a tourist destination.”
Bock adds that a recent trend in senior tourist expectations is access to a variety of outdoor activities ranging from riding zip lines, river boating, tours of surrounding villages and even strenuous bike riding trails.
Fine dining has always been important but, the necessity of using organic, locally grown foods is becoming the standard many senior travelers rely on — and expect. The dependence of resorts with culinary talent and well-trained service staff has never been greater. All-inclusive spas offering a wide variety of pampering options have become the norm rather than the exception.
Every region of the country now have resorts ranging from the exclusive to the budget-priced specifically designed to be easily navigated by seniors requiring handrails, ramps in addition to stairs, and other basic accommodations.
Hot springs are also popular with older tourists and Ecuador has 106 developed spring sites. Papallacta, Urcuquí, Baños de Agua Santa in Tungurahua, and Baños de Cuenca are among the best known, and all are fully equipped with safety railings, anti-skid surfaces, and ramps rather than stairs.
Speaking of changing tourist expectations, José Luis Rodríguez, an experienced tour guide, says Urcuquí and San Francisco are emerging as destinations in the quickly developing market of wellness tourism. Daily yoga and meditation sessions are common in many if not most of the better resorts due to vacationing seniors preferences.
For those who like an exciting gastronomic adventure, Rodríguez suggests the roasted sheep route that runs through Cayambe, Olmedo and Ibarra. “The road passes close to the Cayambe snow and ends in the back of the ‘Taita’ Imbabura. On the way you can taste biscuits, cheeses, alfajores, jams, paila ice cream, as well as roasted mutton.”
There are several resorts and guide services that cater to seniors boating in the Amazon. The train ride from Alausí to Cotipaxi National Park is comfortable and offers incredibly beautiful photographic scenery requiring you only to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. A recently added excursion that is becoming popular for seniors visiting southern Ecuador is the self-guided tour of coffee plantations in Vilcabamba — many growers are anxious to show off how their plants are cared for and their beans roasted, and have maps available in many of the local resorts.
These are among the scores of fun places that are safe, easily navigatable, and will give seniors a feeling of closeness with the natural world around you. There is no shortage of places to see and things in do in Ecuador no matter what your age.