How has the positioning of Quito as a tourism destination evolved?
Quito acts as the gate to Ecuador's four worlds: the Pacific coast, the Andes, the Amazon, and the Galápagos Islands. The city has made efforts to promote Quito as a tourism destination. In terms of international promotion, Quito has been implementing its strategy for 2020 and 2021 to develop the city for foreign visitors. To that end, one of the priorities is to improve the connectivity of Quito by establishing new agreements with airlines. Second, we have established representation offices abroad to attract more tourism to Quito. The strategic plan developed in 2016 evaluates different markets and identifies nine priority markets: the US, Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Spain, the UK, and Germany. In those nine markets, the strategy is to hire a public relations agency able to handle Quito's promotion in an efficient manner. We have developed agreements with airlines such as Avianca, Interjet, JetBlue, Gol, Air Canada, and American Airlines, to name a few. In all, tourism is an industry that needs to be built over the long term.
Tourists from Asian countries, especially China, are showing more interest in Ecuador. Which opportunities is Quito targeting in this regard?
Ever since I took over the management of Quito Turismo, we have been conducting extensive research on Asian markets. Currently, it can take up to three days for tourists from Asian countries to come to Ecuador. With that in mind, we have been working on increasing the number of direct flights. Equally important, we are developing more information in Asian languages in order to better promote Ecuador and prepare the country's offer accordingly. Thanks to our efforts, tour operators are tapping an increasing number of Asian markets. We aim to promote similar initiatives in the future. We are also working on marketing plans that will enable us to prepare short- and long-term strategies.
Which new products are being developed for Quito?
MICE tourism is one of our priorities, and we have a division only focused on MICE tourists. Our international network is promoting Quito at international events. We are also approaching various chambers of commerce and associations to let them know that Quito is open to organize events. We are willing to offer tailor-made products to attract MICE events to Quito. We have held numerous events in 2019, and we are set to hold more in years to come. MICE tourists have high purchasing power, and they bring a lot of knowledge from different areas in the world, which can help us come up with new ideas. We want to host the world's largest events. We are also planning to host sports events because they bring a whole host of new opportunities. In 2018, we received around 690,000 tourists and for 2019, the estimation is 705,000. Our goal is to receive 4 million tourists within four years, and MICE tourism can help us achieve that.
What new programs are you developing to revamp the center of Quito?
We have a program to refurbish the center of Quito. There are about 26 properties that we are planning to revamp in Quito's historical center. We are also in talks to open a Hyatt hotel. We are offering these 26 properties to potential investors. To that end, Quito Turismo is preparing a portfolio for 2020. We are also working to create heritage areas to attract foreign investment. The goal is to award concessions to establish an art gallery, a hotel, or any other kind of business that can revitalize the center. We must bring more international chains that are not present in Quito. The majority of tourists do not stay in the historical center. They stay in the north of the city and go to the center for a day visit. That said, there are some top-notch boutique hotels like Carlota, and many more will open in the near future.