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What's New in Ecuador

July 15, 2011 By: Joe Pike Travel Agent



Quito’s Centro Historico
Quito’s Centro Historico.


Ecuador today has more to offer and is more accessible than ever. A new luxury camp, new luxury yachts, new international and domestic flights—there are tons of new and exciting selling points for this destination.

Learn Spanish in a Rainforest

For clients looking to learn or practice Spanish, a visit to a language school in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest can be an unforgettable experience. The Simon Bolivar Amazon Jungle Program offers students and adults alike the opportunity to learn Spanish for a week at Yarina Lodge.

One-on-one sessions are available for as little as $4-$10 per hour and can be combined with a number of outdoor activities such as guided hiking excursions, bird-watching and nature observation, canoeing, and learning about local cultures and traditions. Simon Bolivar programs and locations are also available in Quito, Cuenca and the Pacific Coast.

Tax Refunds on Purchases

Ecuador now offers tax refunds on purchases of items costing over $50 at participating stores. Visitors can get up to 50 percent back on the taxes they paid during their stay by presenting their original receipts, purchases and a copy of their passport at the tax refund desks at Quito and Guayaquil international airports after checking in for their international flights. Agents should visit

Agent Advice

“In Quito, visit the Plaza Independencia, with the cathedral built between 1550-1562,” says Belinda “Binnie” Alwine of Boulevards of Travel in Newport Beach, CA. “The most notable church is La Compania with a high altar plated with gold. Visit the Museum Arqueologico with exhibits covering successive cultures from 4000 B.C. to A.D. 1534. Avenida Amazonas is lined with shops filled with typical handicrafts of Ecuador. The best of which is Folklore. The best Indian market is Otavalo, north of Quito; one night is necessary. Two hours from Quito is Antisana Ecological Reserve, a great place to hike through Andean high-altitude meadows. Hire a helicopter to fly over the Avenue of Volcanoes, a 200-mile stretch of snow-capped Cordillera peaks. Ecuador is great for adventurous clients and people of all ages.”


Work With the Locals

Clients who wish to work with local communities and do their share to preserve the local environment can visit the Jatun Sacha Congal Biostation in the Esmeralda province. The Jatun Sacha Congal Biostation welcomes volunteer assistance for a few days, weeks, or even months. Volunteers help with the Biostation’s mission to develop alternative and sustainable aquaculture, as well as natural resource management and community programs to improve living standards on both local and global levels. When they get some time off from contributing to these worthy causes, volunteers go snorkeling and scuba diving. Guest amenities include private cabins, fresh seafood and organic meals.

New International Airport

Cotopaxi International Airport (ICAO), Ecuador’s newest airport, opened in March. It has been built in the town of Latacunga, in the heart of the Avenue of the Volcanoes, and is one-and-a-half hours from Quito, the country’s capital. This is Ecuador’s fourth international airport, after the two in Quito and the one in the coastal city of Guayaquil.

The federal government has invested more than $37 million on the airport, which boasts the longest runway in the country. Currently, the airport is only used for cargo airlines but passenger planes will start landing there in the coming months.


Quito at dusk
Quito at dusk.


New National Carriers

Two new national airlines recently began operations across Ecuador—Air Cuenca and Saereo. Both will fly to regional airports in Cuenca, Quito, Guayaquil, Macas, Santa Rosa and Loja. Saereo’s airplanes are Embraer 120 and Beechcraft 1900 for approximately 20 and 30 passengers, respectively. Air Cuenca has a Boeing 737-500 for 126 passengers.

Four other airlines provide regional connections, including Aerogal, Icaro Air, LAN Ecuador and Tame.

“Ecuador, Love Life” Campaign

The Ministry of Tourism has recently launched “Ecuador, Love Life,” a campaign with a new logo based on a pre-Columbian design representing the sun, life, earth and ecological diversity.

The country’s new branding effort, aimed at communicating its strong respect for life, has been presented at a number of prominent tourism industry events in North America, including the USTOA Annual Conference in New Orleans, The New York Times Travel Show and the Los Angeles Times Travel and Adventure Show. “Ecuador, Love Life” also serves as the destination’s tagline. 

Galapagos Luxury Camps

Ecuador now has its first eco-luxury tented camps with the opening of Galapagos Safari Camp. As in the luxury African safari camps, guests enjoy total comfort while experiencing the islands’ pristine natural environment and stunning landscapes. Set in the highlands of the Santa Cruz Islands, the camp’s nine spacious tents, which have en suite bathrooms and balconies with a hammock and chairs, overlook the National Park.

Yachting to the Galapagos

Latin Trails, a tour operator specializing in South America, introduced its newest luxury yacht, M/V Galapagos Grand Odyssey, earlier this year. The new 16-passenger yacht combines luxury, privacy and comfort with the Galapagos for a unique experience. It features eight suites (82 square feet each) and one Master Suite (115 square feet) with panoramic windows, a private bathroom, a TV and more. Twin beds or a queen bed and connected suites for families are also available.

By the Numbers

Ecuador received 279,451 visitors in the first quarter of this year. This represents a four percent increase from the same period in 2010. For additional information, visit the Ecuador Ministry of Tourism’s official tourism website,

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About the Author

Joe Pike
Joe Pike is Travel Agent's senior editor covering the Caribbean, Bahamas & Bermuda; Hawaii; Central & South America. Previously, Pike was a newspaper reporter for The Asbury Park...

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By Joe Pike | July 15, 2011
Ecuador has focused on infrastructure development and travel incentives to make its cultural and natural riches more accessible.