With voting set to close at the World Travel Awards in just a few days, Breaking Travel News editor here chats with Quito Tourism general manager Gabriela Sommerfeld to discuss the importance of the programme and the city’s efforts to attract voters.
With Ecuador also hit by an earthquake earlier this year, Sommerfeld is keen to point out the capital is ‘open for business’.
Breaking Travel News: Quito has been recognised as South America’s Leading Destination for the past three years by the World Travel Awards. How important has this accolade been for the destination?
Gabriela Sommerfeld: To be recognised as South America’s Leading Destination for three years in a row is an important achievement, as it gives Quito great international exposure.
We know that winners are showcased in the publications of a vast media network including the International Herald Tribune, Arabiya CNBC, Newsweek, Traveler Outlook, China Travel & Leisure, Viajes Daily News International, Focus on Travel News, Revista Pasaporte, National Geographic Travelers, among others.
Additionally, heads of state and industry leaders are known to attend the awards ceremony, which provides the possibility of interesting networking opportunities for the tourism sector.
BTN: With just a few days to go until voting closes ahead of the World Travel Awards Latin America Gala Ceremony what has the city been doing to make sure voters select the destination in 2016?
GS: In order to win this award again, Quito Turismo has launched several efforts with the purpose of adding votes, which include: events at shopping malls, voting campaigns at educational centers and companies, management of media slots, visits to tourism operators in the city, and voting through social networks, to name a few of the efforts carried out during the last few weeks.
BTN: Ecuador experienced a 7.8-magnitude earthquake on Saturday, April 16th. The epicentre was located off the pacific coast and affected mainly coastal areas, while populated areas in the highlands, such as the capital Quito, felt tremors. While causalities were tragically reported, is it fair to say tourism in the city remains largely ‘open for business’?
GS: Indeed. Quito is located more than 280 km from the earthquake’s epicenter - in Pedernales, province of Manabí - a similar distance to that will be between New York and Baltimore, or Frankfurt and Zurich, which is why only minor damages were caused in buildings in the south of Quito.
The Historical District remains intact.
Museums, hotels and restaurants are open for business, and the airport is operating normally.
Additionally, our tourist information centers are open and ready to help visitors. I am convinced that the best way to help Ecuador is by visiting it.
Quito welcomes visitors from around the world with open arms.
BTN: Wyndham Hotel Group recently opened a new property at Quito Airport. The 146-room property is just the latest to join the hospitality scene in the city. What other projects are on the horizon?
GS: The city´s potential has been recognised by several international hotel chains and companies.
Such is the case of Accor, which announced the expansion of its operations in the country through the construction of ten new hotels representing an investment of approximately $ 100 million, starting with their first hotel in Quito.
In February 2013 the Mariscal Sucre International Airport opened.
This infrastructure represents a mechanism to improve the connectivity of the city and the country in the region.
The airport has been an anchor for the development of the “Tababela” area, where it is located, managing to attract hotel investments around the project, such as the Wyndham “Great Condor” Hotel that just opened last month, the Holiday Inn Quito Airport Hotel, with 130 rooms, Hilton San Patricio Hotel, with 130 rooms, the Eurobuilding Hotel with 130 rooms and the Royal Green Apartments and Hotel.
All these hotels are five star and are located less than 1.5 kilometres from Mariscal Sucre airport.
Moreover, in the area where the former airport Mariscal Sucre was located, current Bicentennial Park, the new Metropolitan Convention Centre of Quito will be built with the aim of developing a new infrastructure for events, conferences and conventions and to empower Quito as a meeting industry destination.
The project will be developed in 10.75 hectares of the Bicentennial Park and will be complemented by commercial businesses such as hotels, restaurants, shops, public services and areas of entertainment and culture, which will contribute to the development of this centrality as the new housing, commercial and business area of the city.
BTN: Mariscal Sucre International Airport itself has grown in stature since opening three years ago. How important has the development of this facility been to tourism in the city? Can you tell us what increases in airlift are planned for the year ahead?
GS: The Mariscal Sucre International Airport is a significant improvement over the previous one, offering greater operational flexibility with larger passenger and cargo facilities.
It offers a great combination of passenger services to ensure its journey through the airport is positive.
Under the brand name “Mall del Cielo”, the airport has 41 stores with an excellent mix of international franchises and local brands that offer the best products.
Passengers can enjoy, relax or work before their flights in the VIP Lounges (international and domestic) or comfortable waiting areas with Wi-Fi.
Passengers have access to timely and accurate operational and commercial information via social networks.
The International Airport Mariscal Sucre is the busiest and most important airport in Ecuador.
Currently it connects to 24 destinations: 14 international and ten national, through 13 airlines: Avianca, Lan, Aeromexico, American Airlines, Copa, Delta, Iberia, InselAir, KLM, United Airlines, Viva Colombia, Tame and JetBlue.
TAME is Ecuador´s flagship airline and its main hub is Mariscal Sucre Airport. The airline currently operates 14 domestic and seven international destinations.
With the inauguration of the new airport in Quito, the city has become a more accessible destination to the world, opening new routes with direct flights.
Most recently, InselAir started operating with a direct flight to Oranjestad, Aruba and Jet Blue launched its direct flight to Fort Lauderdale.