Tourism is increasingly generating foreign currency for the country. How does DGAC contribute to the development of the tourism sector?
We work alongside the Civil Aviation Council processing the requests of companies looking to open business and operate within the sector in Ecuador. The certification process is a five-step procedure in which we first assign a taskforce ad hoc between our representatives and the prospective operator and give them the guidelines of operation. They then have to define a timeline for deliverables. The team has to present its operation manuals and plans for the third stage to begin, in which we analyze the aforementioned documents. This is key, as it sets the difference between the potential operator complying with our basic set of rules and the list of conditions and standard in which operator promises to abide by, usually, a stricter and detailed plan. In the fourth stage, the solicitant needs to demonstrate its ability to comply with our guidelines and its own standards through rigorous tests performed and indicators measured to get to the fifth stage, whereby we issue all permits and certifications after due checks of all legal conditions and procedures. We recognize our role as regulators of the sector and understand the need to set the proper conditions to increase the interest foreign operators to open business with our country. We have well-developed infrastructure for both air and land transportation that could be both beneficial and a disadvantage, as there are incentives for people to travel by car rather than the significantly more expensive air travel. Contrary to people's intuition, shorter flights represent higher costs because of the operational expenses of the industry over the relative cheaper fuel costs. This is why we are working to make the sector more economically friendly through proper regulations.
The new airport in Manta will be ready in 2020. What are the prospects for this enhanced air infrastructure? What potential do you see in developing air traffic through the Pacific Ocean using Ecuador's airspace or inland facilities?
There is enormous potential, and we want to seize it soon. We hope it starts with ICAO assigning us the management of the route. Although it might go to Peru or Central America, we are in a better position to do it for a few reasons, such as our planned search and rescue center operating from Galapagos, the fact we already have our own flight information region (FIR) in Guayaquil, and, most importantly, the fact that we designed the route, and it makes a continental entrance through Ecuador.
What are your priorities and plans for the next couple of years?
We need to raise awareness and promote our brand alongside the Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Foreign Trade, and Ministry of Transportation inviting new operators, be it airlines or other stakeholders, into Ecuador. We have award-winning airports that repeatedly show the world we are world-class and ready to receive them. The second priority is to beat the misconception that DGAC and the sector in general is overregulated and hard to open a business in. We need to bring people closer to the specifics and nuances of the sectors whilst making the country aware that the development of the civil aviation sector is crucial for the progress of Ecuador.