US carrier JetBlue Airways this past week inaugurated flights between Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport, marking its debut in Ecuador, the 22nd country market to be served by the carrier. The launch of the daily service on February 25, 2016 continues the carrier’s development in the Caribbean and Latin American markets, where around one third of its capacity is now centred.
Ecuador is growing in stature as a major emerging regional tourism destination in South America. And the future for Quito is looking bright, with over $87 million in hotel investment announced over the next 10 years, being recognized as South America's leading destination by the World Travel Awards for the second consecutive year and, as the hub for all the adventures that await across Ecuador, gaining a reputation as a top location for meetings, sporting events and global conferences.
Its recent growth can be put to a forward thinking strategy and joined up business approach from stakeholders. Over recent years tourism authorities and other stakeholders have taken on an increasing role in network decisions alongside the airports that are linked and the airlines that serve the routes and Ecuador is a great example of how airlines, airports and tourism authorities are working together to strengthen their branding in international markets.
“The launch of this new route is the product of a lot of work, including visits to the airline’s headquarters and numerous meetings during Routes events over recent years.”Carlos Criado
Business Development Director, Corporación Quiport
In fact this new JetBlue route can be linked back to meetings held at recent Routes Americas and World Routes forums where Ministry of Tourism has helped Corporación Quiport, the concessionaire of the Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport, to promote Ecuador’s outstanding natural offer.
"The addition of JetBlue to the roster of airlines at the Quito Airport is a sign of the growing importance of Quito as a premier tourism destination on a regional scale,” Carlos Criado, Business Development Director, Corporación Quiport told Routesonline at the recent Routes Americas forum in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
“The arrival of JetBlue will have a positive impact on the development of tourism from and to the United States and it will offer Ecuadorian passengers greater connectivity from Fort Lauderdale where it will soon offer more than 100 daily flights to destinations across its network.” he added.
According to Criado, the Routes events helped Quito secure JetBlue Airways as a partner and this important new link to the US, the third major airline partner than Routes has helped to deliver to Ecuador. “The launch of this new route is the product of a lot of work, including visits to the airline’s headquarters and numerous meetings during Routes events over recent years,” he said. Previously Quiport had established first contact with Aeroméxico and VivaColombia at Routes events, airlines that began operations to Quito in December 2013 and December 2014 respectively.
Situated more than 9,000 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains, Quito is set against a beautiful and scenic backdrop and features one of the least-altered, best-preserved historic centres in the world. Declared one of the first World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1978, the city is home to various museums, picturesque plazas and impressive architecture.
“Quito is one of the fastest growing destinations in Latin America and a world-class tourism destination. We are thrilled to bring our award-winning service and low fares to this underserved market,” said Dave Clark, Vice President Network Planning, JetBlue, also an attendee of this year’s Routes Americas.
Ecuador certainly has a lot to offer and has a growing inbound appeal as the new Quito International Airport, the largest gateway into the country, makes the destination more accessible to international arrivals without the operational restrictions that had affected its downtown predecessor.
“Improving the infrastructure to handle air traffic growth into the country and Quito in particular has been vital,” said Criado. This is of particular importance when you consider Quito is located at 2,850m above sea level.
Mariscal Sucre International Airport this month celebrated the third anniversary of its opening, a period during which passenger traffic has grown by a fifth. In fact Quito has seen year-on-year growth in passenger demand every year since the start of the Century during which time arrivals and departures have grown from just 400,000 to approaching six million, highlighting how the city and Ecuador are growing in stature.
Ecuador is perhaps one of the most mega-diverse countries per square kilometre on the planet. In relation to its surface areas, Ecuador holds the greatest amount of species of plants and animals on Earth. 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.
The US market remains the main target for arrivals, but the recent new links to Mexico and Colombia have seen these countries grow in importance. In Europe, Germany and the United Kingdom are the main targets, as well as growing links in Spain where there is a strong Ecuadorian diaspora.
“We are looking at a number of local markets such as Brazil and Chile. We are particularly looking to work with a low-cost carrier to establish a link to Medellin. We have a good connection with Bogota, but not currently with Medellin. That is a key target for us,” said Criado. “We also want more flights to Europe. We have big operators connecting us to the Continent but feel the load factors are strong enough to sustain additional frequencies or even new destinations.”