Travel Agent recently sat down with Patricio Gaybor, marketing manager for the Ecuador Ministry of Tourism, and learned of the country’s ongoing additions to its already vast tourism product.
Patricio Gaybor, marketing manager for the Ecuador Ministry of Tourism, sees more travelers heading to Latin America in the future as a viable vacation option during tough economic times
Struggling U.S. Economy May Benefit Destination
While no tourism board likes to see Americans struggle financially, Gaybor admits that Ecuador, an incredibly affordable destination, will most likely flourish because of these tough economic times. And after Travel Agent’s recent trip, where we enjoyed such low-cost experiences as a 30-minute cab ride for $2, we couldn’t agree more. “I’ve spoken with industry representatives who told me that Australia, Africa and Asia will be taking major hits in 2009. And for the traveler who loves culture, what do you have left after those international destinations?” Gaybor asks rhetorically. “You basically are left with Europe and Latin America. Because Europe is so expensive, many travelers will choose Latin America. Ecuador is among the cheapest of Latin American destinations, and we use the dollar, so [those are] two big reasons why people will choose us.”
According to Gaybor, Ecuador has been registering steady increases in international arrivals since 2002 and is expected to reach a milestone one-million mark in foreigners this year, the first time the country has ever reached that mark. The average annual increase in arrivals has been about 6 percent since 2002, but 2008 represented a whopping 13-percent increase, Gaybor says. “Since that was the highest ever, and since we are heading into a difficult year for the industry in 2009, we are not expecting to do that again,” Gaybor admits. “But if we can maintain the 6 percent average, we will be pleased.” In 2008, Ecuador had a $6 million budget allocated for the tourism industry. Because of the success and increasing pressure to live up to it in 2009, that budget has increased to $23 million this year, Gaybor says. Of that total figure, however, half will be designated toward funding hotel developments while the remainder will be used to market the country.
Ecuador has been registering a steady increase in international arrivals since 2002 and is expected to reach a milestone 1 million this year
Ecuador’s Program to Certify Agents in Sustainable Tourism
Gaybor took over the position of marketing manager for the Ministry of Tourism in April. But before that, he was focused on improving the country’s ecotourism and sustainability. So it didn’t come as a surprise when he told us one of his main goals as marketing manager will be to further educate travel agents on sustainable tourism. According to Gaybor, the Rainforest Alliance is working with the Ministry of Tourism, the Ecuadorian Ecotourism Association, and the private sector to establish management practices for tourism that protect the destination’s ecosystems. Online workshops will soon be available to agents so they can obtain official certification as a sustainable tourism specialist in Ecuador. The program will launch sometime this year, Gaybor says, and will focus on three main components: general information on the country; operational issues, such as how long people should stay and how much money they should bring; and sustainability. The last component will involve teaching agents how to identify “green” hotels and what the requirements are to be official “green” properties. Once agents pass through this program, the Ministry of Tourism will be compiling its Best Sellers list, in which they will choose about 40 to 50 of their best-selling agents to go on a mega-fam trip in 2010.
Train of the Middle of the World
One of Ecuador’s most ambitious projects is the $260 million restoration of its steam train and rail line from Quito to Guayaquil, an effort that Travel Agent has been following for some time. The line is being restored in different phases, and is expected to be fully operational by late 2010. The first leg of the newly renovated line, a 68-mile stretch between Quito and Latacunga, was slated to be up and running toward the end of last year. That train was scheduled to depart twice a week. Once fully completed, the Train of the Middle of The World will take your clients on a 9,000-foot journey in the heart of the Andes and will travel all the way south to the coast, passing through an array of landscapes, villages, towns and ecosystems. Although we were told tickets for the train are not commissionable, there are several operators that offer private rides on the train. Agents should contact Marcelo Meneses of Ecuador Adventure, one of the few operators offering private journeys on sections of the railway, although the Bureau is expecting more to jump onboard as news surfaces. Meneses can be reached at 800-655-4053, ext. 8806, or [email protected].