Study predicts Cuenca and Quito will grow in expat popularity as the pandemic recedes

Mar 3, 2021

A demographic study of global migration patterns by the University of Barcelona and InterNations predicts that Cuenca and Quito will continue to rank one and two as the most popular landing spots in Ecuador and South America for international expats as the impact of the Covid-19 declines.

Cuenca’s historic district is a major draw for expats.

In total numbers, the study predicts that Cuenca will attract slightly more foreigners because of its larger, more established expat community.

The report, released in late February, says that other Ecuadoran cities and towns expected to attract foreign residents are Ibarra, Vilcabamba, Cotacachi, Salinas, Manta, Bahia de Caraquez, and Tonsupa.

“What we are observing is continuing strong interest in Cuenca, much of it due to news coverage in the European press, but also from word-of-mouth from those who have visited the city,” authors of the report say. “Periodicals in Germany, Great Britain, Norway and Sweden have ranked the city as one of the best places for foreigners to relocate.”

The report continues: “Among Latin American cities, Cuenca offers a rare combination of good infrastructure, rich culture, low crime, a large population of foreigners, low costs of living, and good weather. The economic damage from the pandemic will have a short-term impact on the city but this is the case in all of Latin America.”

The study estimates that the number of North Americans and Europeans living permanently in Ecuador to be 36,000, a number increasing at a rate of 4% to 5% a year after the pandemic ends.

Quito’s metropolitan culture has attracted expats for decades.

Carlos Garcias, a migration researcher for the project, says the Covid pandemic has frozen expat movement over the past year. “Worldwide, between five and 10 percent of expats have returned to their home countries as a result of the health crisis but, at the same time, there is great pent-up demand of many others to move to other countries,” he says. “I believe that you will see a rapid pickup in movement to expat destinations in the second half of 2021 and beyond and I believe Ecuador will once again be a favorite landing spot.”

In addition to Cuenca and Quito, Gracia believes cities such as Arequipa, Peru, Sucre, Bolivia and Mendoza, Argentina will begin to attract more expats. “Colombia will remain popular as well, especially Bogota and Medellin, but the rapidly rising crime rate in Colombia will reduce the influx. The violent crime rate in Medellin, for example, is more than 400 percent higher than in Cuenca, and this will keep some foreigners away.”

The report, titled “Voluntary Migrations, The Emerging Trends,” says that the influx of North Americans to Cuenca slowed slightly between 2015 and 2019. It also noted, however, the growing attraction of the city with Europeans. “Traditionally, Europeans have looked for other countries within the Europe to relocate but recently, we have seen increased movement toward Latin America, and Cuenca is one the region’s most attractive destinations.”

The report predicts that the largest number of migrants to Cuenca and Quito in the next quarter century will be from the U.S., Great Britain, Germany, Canada, Spain and France.

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