Ecuador’s plan to vaccinate nine million residents against the Covid-19 virus by September is turning its attention to the country’s tourism sector. The Ministry of Health says it has inoculated 35,000 tourism industry workers in Quito, Cuenca and Guayaquil in the last two weeks, adding that the program will extend to other areas of the country in the coming weeks.
At a press conference last week, Tourism Minister Niels Olsen said the program boosts the economy by providing assurance to foreign tourists that their guides and hosts have been vaccianted. He also recalled that employees in food and beverage establishments, accommodation, tourist transport and guides have been invited to register through their unions to receive immunizations.
“By August, we want to be among the first countries in South America to have all tourism workers vaccinated and thus continue with the reactivation of the tourism sector,” he said.
Olsen hailed the success of an earlier vaccination program in the Galapagos, where almost all of the adult population works in tourism, as an example of what he hopes to accomplish. “Almost everyone in the Galapgos Island has been vaccinated and we are already seeing the return of international tourists there as a result.”
José Ruales, Deputy Health Minister for Governance and Surveillance highlighted the support received from the private sector. “The help of private business is critical in reaching workers in all aspects of the industry,” he said. “Every day, we are hearing from more businesses who want to help, either through financial contributions or by offering the use of their facilities.”
University tourism programs at several national univiersities have also joined the cause, providing support to vaccinate students who will soon enter the tourism sector. “We are doing everything we can to reactive the industry and vaccinating our graduating students who will soon enter the profession is crucial,” according to Andrea Encalada, vice-rector of the San Francisco University in Quito.
Raúl García, president of the Ecuador Chamber of Tourism, says that vaccinations are critical to rebuilding an industry that has suffered huge financial losses due to the pandemic. “Guaranteeing visitor safety is a top priority and the reason why we are joining the Ministry of Health’s program.”