ECUADOR'S CAPITAL, QUITO, WILL BE hosting Travel Mart Latin America in 2008 for the second time in five years. The event, which Travel Agent attended this year in Cartagena, Colombia, is considered by many to be the best Latin America trade show. Next year's show in Quito is scheduled for September 10-12, and if agents attend, they will be sure to leave armed with selling points to present to clients flirting with the idea of visiting the historic city.
But why wait? Here's some information on the destination's geography and history, as well as hotels and restaurants, to assist you in planning a client's trip to Quito.
Quito is in the northern part of Ecuador, which lies on South America's Pacific coast, bordered by Colombia and Peru. It's within the Andes mountain range and, at about 9,300 feet, is one of the highest capital cities in the world. Quito is smaller in area and population than Ecuador's largest city, Guayaquil, located more than 100 miles to the southwest.
The equator is just 15 miles from Quito, and tourists can travel the short distance outside the city to Mitad del Mundo—the "middle of the world"—where there's a monument, plus a museum and small village.
Once ruled by the Incas, Quito was established as a Spanish colonial city in the 1500s. It gained its independence following the 1822 Battle of Pichincha, led by Antonio José de Sucre and Simón Bolívar. The city's hilly historic center has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its monasteries, churches and cathedrals that date back to the colonial period.
Quito is a reasonably priced destination, and Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar, so no currency exchange is needed. Clients do need to prepare for the intense sun and high altitude. Make sure they don't suffer from any serious breathing problems. They shouldn't forget to bring sunglasses; they'll need them near the equator, even in winter.
U.S. airlines serving Quito include American (nonstop twice daily out of Miami), Continental (daily nonstop from Houston) and Delta (daily nonstop out of Atlanta).
To see the city, Travel Agent recommends hiring a private driver/guide through the hotel, which can cost about $90 for a full day of sightseeing. Agent Advice
Where to Stay
There have been some hotel developments in the centuries-old center of Quito in the past year. Among them, The Plaza Grande (www.plazagrandequito.com), a boutique hotel managed by Swissôtel, reopened last January after a complete refurbishment. It's in the heart of the historic district, along the Plaza Grande and close to many landmarks, including the Presidential Palace, Metropolitan Cultural Center, Museo de la Ciudad and the gold-leaf church La Compañia Jesús.
On the site of Quito's first luxury hotel (known as the Majestic), the Plaza Grande offers 15 rooms as well as a gourmet restaurant, a wine cellar and a banquet room.
The Presidential Suite, on the top floor, represents the best and largest accommodations in the hotel. It has a living room, dining room, kitchen and two bathrooms. It also has a view of the Plaza de la Independencia, and three balconies that overlook the plaza.
Villa Colonna (www.villacolonna.ec), a two-story bed-and-breakfast, opened in a 19th-century building in the historic center of Quito at the beginning of the year. Each of its five suites contains antiques, fireplaces, loft ceilings and hardwood floors. Villa Colonna also offers a patio, living room, meeting room and an outdoor terrace with excellent views.
The owner, Rigoberto Orozco, says that all rooms are equally beautiful and cost the same ($188 per night has been the rate in 2007). However, his personal favorite is "La Basilica," which is near the back of the inn and has a beautiful view of the Itchimbia Crystal Palace. All rooms will increase to $244 a night in 2008; commission is 30 percent. For reservations, call 888-790-5264 or e-mail Orozco at [email protected] or [email protected]
The Hotel Patio Andaluz Quito (www.hotelpatioandaluz.com), a boutique property surrounded by churches, museums and national monuments, was declared Cultural Patrimony of Humanity by UNESCO in 1978. The hotel is an official "national treasure" and holds centuries of history within its walls. It was among the original building sites (solaris) that constituted the City of San Francisco of Quito at its founding.
The hotel now has 31 suites, a restaurant, a cava bar and a library. It offers modern amenities without abandoning its historical and atmospheric colonial style. A single or double rooms costs $150. A duplex suite costs $175. Add 22 percent for tax and service charges. Agents can call Francisco Vaca, sales manager, at 011-593-2-280-0830 or e-mail [email protected]
The Hilton Colon Quito (www.quito.hilton.com) recently wrapped up a refurbishment in its Santa Maria tower. Among the amenities that were added are the Hilton Serenity Bed, Cuisinart coffeemakers, flat-screen TVs and new furniture. The hotel's $2 million renovation will also include the conversion of 92 rooms in the hotel's La Pinta tower to 42 premium suites. The suites, which will be completed in 2008, will range in size from 645 to 968 square feet and have access to a private dedicated lounge, separate from the existing executive-floor lounge. The Hilton is also adding two meeting rooms.
In front of the hotel, guests will find the Mariscal handicraft market—a circuit of folkloric shops—and El Ejido park, where there are painting exhibitions on Saturdays and Sundays. Hilton Colon Quito features the elegant restaurant Portofino, a bar, sushi bar, casino, facilities for conventions and events, spa and fitness center, and a 24-hour coffee shop and room service.
Agents can contact Maite Ulloa, director of sales, at 011-592-2-256-0666 or [email protected]
Restaurante el Cucurucho de Santa Clara (www.restaurants.com.ec/cucurucho.santaclara) specializes in Ecaudorian and international cuisine. The average cost for a meal is about $15, and the ambiance is comfortable, laid-back elegance. It is open from noon to 11 p.m. daily. Call 011-593-257-2114 or 011-593-228-5866.
The Mea Culpa Restaurante, in the Hotel Plaza Grande facing the Presidential Palace, serves Chilean and Venezuelan dishes. A meal averages $20-$25. Call 011-593-2-257-3445.
La Boca del Lobo ([email protected]) is an intimate restaurant in the Mariscal neighborhood that plays lounge music. Its menu features local and international food. The cost of dinner for two is about $45, including drinks. Call 011-593-223-4083.