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Ecuador’s Quito International Airport is the gateway to a diverse country intent on improving its tourism offer. The diversity of Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands gave rise to one of the great scientific theories. Today, that same diversity is still a driving force. But it is now the country’s tourism industry that is benefitting from its powerful influence. Year-on-year, tourism traffic to Ecuador is growing in excess of 10%.
Situated on the equator, Ecuador’s year-round spring climate bestows an incredible variety of flora and fauna on the country. In its 24 provinces, a visitor can find 1,800 species of orchids, 1,640 species of birds, 4,500 species of butterflies, 345 species of reptiles, 358 species of amphibians and 258 species of mammals.
Nature tourism is big business but it is not just the Galapagos and the Amazon that people are flocking to see. Many visitors to the country also take advantage of the opportunity to go from the Pacific Coast to the Andes, from diving along the sea beds to trekking across the peaks of active volcanoes. An equally impressive range adorns Ecuador’s cultural heritage. A succession of influences throughout history have left their mark. From the ethnic groups that call the Amazon their home to the Afro Ecuadoran, the country symbolizes the modern, multicultural world. Little surprise that Quito has been named a UNESCO world heritage site.
Meanwhile, the dollarisation of the economy seems to have workedwonders, with GDP growing around 5% and inflation roughly 3% or below. Although oil exports are critical and poverty is still apparent in rural areas, the World Bank predicts the economy isset to remain strong.
Quito on the rise
Whether visiting Ecuador for business or leisure, improving the infrastructure to handle air traffic growth is vital. The most obvious development is the new Quito International Airport, which handles the majority of international arrivals. Situated in the Tababela region, some 24km east of Quito, the airport comes complete with all mod cons.
Built by the Canadian-US-Brazilian consortium, Quiport, it can handle some 5 million passengers per annum and features a 4,100 metre runway, capable of accommodating the Airbus A380.
The control tower is the highest in Latin America at 41 metres while the cargo area has tripled in size compared with the old facility. “We have worked with airlines operating at Quito International Airport to better understand their needs,” says Andrew O’Brian, Quiport president and CEO. “We shared with them our vision as airport administrators and we have set priorities. The airlines have appreciated all the improvements implemented and actions carried out. In fact, our passenger growth has been quite important, which led us to start expanding our facilities to ensure we are ready to provide the best service. The new area, which will mainly be used by domestic flights, will be in operation as of May 2015 as part of our overall master plan of the airport.”
“Participating in Routes World and Routes Americas has been very productive for our airport.”Andrew O’Brian
Quiport president and CEO
Quito’s route development efforts are focused on developing new connectivity on several fronts, including low cost airlines, charter service and new destinations. “Participating in Routes World and Routes Americas has been very productive for our airport,” says O’Brian. “Our active participation in these conferences began in 2008 and has helped us take advantage of the opportunities they offer. It was at Routes where we established first contact with Aeroméxico and VivaColombia, airlines that began operations in Quito in December 2013 and December 2014 respectively.”
Also important is forging close ties with interested partners, including the tourism authority. The airport maintains permanent contact with the Ministry of Tourism of Ecuador and Quito Tourism to identify the most attractive markets and establish joint ventures to develop strategies. In fact, at World Routes 2014, the Ministry of Tourism’s stand was there to complement the efforts of the airport in promoting Ecuador to potentially interested airlines.
Meanwhile, Guayaquil – the other international air gateway to Ecuador – continues to play a vital role with connections to Amsterdam and Madrid as well as several destinations throughout the Americas. Twelve other airports complete the Ecuadoran network. Good connections and short flying times make these easily accessible for the international traveller.
First Stone projects
Other infrastructure development is sure to boost tourism further. New roads connect Quito to the regions while 95 new bridges span the jungle chasms of the Amazon, bringing a vast area within easier reach. And in excess of $600 million is being invested in the “First Stone” (las primeras piedras) project, consisting of a number of separate tourism developments in all the main regions. Key among these are new hotels or redevelopments.
“We have a unique geography and incredible bio-diversity; but without quality infrastructure we won’t be the quality destination we want to be.”Dominic Hamilton
Vice Minister of Tourism
Just west of the new airport, the Great Condor Wyndham hotel is taking shape. Built on a plot of 22,000 m2, the first phase of development will feature 146 rooms together with the usual amenities of a five-star hotel. A second phase will add approximately 100 rooms. In Guayaquil, Swissôtel and its SwissTowers will eventually become the tallest buildings in the country. The hotel complex, located on the Simon Bolivar Malecon, overlooking the Guayas river, will have two towers of 190 metres. Between them, the towers will house 300 hotel rooms, 120 apartments and about 30 floors of office space.
“We have a unique geography and incredible bio-diversity; but without quality infrastructure we won’t be the quality destination we want to be,” says the new Vice Minister of Tourism, Dominic Hamilton.
As far as the Ministry of Tourism is concerned, marketing campaigns will concentrate on the traditional key markets. Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Spain, the UK and the US will be all strengthened in terms of Ecuadorian presence, consolidating a significant foothold in the tourism market. Opportunities also exist in secondary markets such as Austria, China, Russia and Sweden. These have not yet been profiled as target markets but remain of interest because of the potential and diversification they offer. Promotion opportunities will be scrutinised according to the usual criteria of arrival statistics, connectivity and other qualitative components.