Protests that have shut down airports in Ecuador and disrupted travel plans of visitors to Ecuador and the Galapagos are expected to end shortly, Peggy Goldman, president of Friendly Planet told Travel Agent. “We are confident that the crisis is winding down – if not over,” she said. “This was not a coup.”
Goldman estimates that about 600 Friendly Planet clients were impacted by the strike by Ecuadorian police officers protesting benefit cuts. The protests quickly grew throughout the country to Quito, Guayaquil, and other cities. Airports were shut down, highways were blocked and a state of emergency was declared for the country.
“We have been living with the crisis for 36 hours and got wonderful support from LAN – especially the New York office and other carriers as well as our ground operators,” Goldman said. Clients were immediately contacted and Friendly Holidays is refunding all payments including passengers in Miami waiting for transportation.
Friendly Planet Travel had travelers in Miami's airport who were trying to fly to Quito and travelers in the Guayaquil airport trying to fly back.
The Voice of America reported today that Ecuador's government says the country remains under a state of emergency, with the military controlling security, the day after soldiers rescued President Rafael Correa from a police rebellion. Striking police seized control of the country's main airport and shut down highways.
“For us it’s been all hands on deck,” Goldman said. “We worked around the clock with the airlines and our representatives on the ground in Ecuador to make sure every one of our passengers was accounted for and is being taken care of.” She also used Twitter and her online blog to communicate.
Goldman noted that Friendly Planet has been in the travel business since 1981 and handles 8,000 to 9,000 travelers annually . The company serves worldwide destinations and groups and has experience in handling crisis situations. This includes, recently, the political protests in Thailand. “We do everything we can to ensure the safety of our clients,” she said.
Goldman says she will post updates on her blog as more news on the protests and information from Friendly Planet reps in Ecuador come in. “Ecuador and the Galapagos are a great year round destination and tourism is important part of the economy,” she said.