KLM takes care of one of the two connections between Ecuador and Europe, for both Quito and Guayaquil, and it recently announced adding a direct connection to Paris. What made you decide to open this new route, and what are your expectations?
The return of Air France to Ecuador with the new Quito-Paris route, which will be operated by Joon, is a historic moment in the aeronautical operations for both countries, as it is the first airline that connects Ecuador and France with a non-stop flight, benefiting the cultural, economic, and tourist exchange and strengthening bilateral relations. The business case for this route showed an increased demand for Quito as a gateway to the country, from where travelers can reach other cities in Ecuador, including the Galapagos, Guayaquil, and Cuenca. This route complements the offer of Air France-KLM providing greater connection options to Europe and the world through its Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam-Schiphol hubs. The Ecuadorian market will have better access to the 314 destinations from our network in 116 countries. We hope to have a great acceptance during the European summer season, and eventually to turn this operation into a regular one.
Ecuador is a popular holiday destination, while the daily Amsterdam—QUI/GYE connection also moves a lot of business travelers from Europe. What are the recent trends, and what is the balance between tourist and business travelers?
According to 2017 figures from the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses, the main reason for the entry of foreigners is tourism; 1,237,384 out of 1,608,000 visitors were registered as tourists. This impels us to join the dream of turning Ecuador into a tourist power that the Ministry of Tourism executes as a public policy. For almost 65 years, KLM has believed in Ecuador and has connected Ecuador with Europe and the rest of the world. We have become allies to show Ecuador's tourist potential to the world. At the same time, we became a safe and comfortable option to meet the requirements of business travelers as well. Therefore, air connectivity is one of the main results within the strategic pillars of the government of Ecuador. We understand its relevance to boost the sector, open new markets, and increase the number of visitors. For us, tourism is a key element for the social and economic development of the country and we feel committed to contribute to this development.
In the summer of 2018, you announced the intention to create a joint venture with SkyTeam partner Air Europe to strengthen your presence in South and Central America. What do you envision with this partnership?
The future agreement will allow us to expand the offer and improve the travel opportunities of our customers. For many years, we have agreements with Air Europe that consist of codeshare agreements, however, deepening the collaboration with Air Europe through a joint venture will allow us to work together even more closely to strengthen our offer on the routes between Europe and South and Central America. This will consolidate our role as a leader in these markets, enabling us to offer our partners greater advantages. At present, companies are conducting an in-depth legal analysis of the modalities of this future agreement in order to ensure compliance with the laws and regulations by force.
What do you anticipate to be the impact of the new investment legislation for the aviation industry?
As Air France-KLM, we consider that any legal instrument that encourages investment is beneficial for that country and its inhabitants, since new investment translates into employment, payment of taxes, and a boost to the local economy. Our commitment is to align ourselves with the policies established by governments in order to look for greater investment opportunities and form public-private collaborations. We recently signed a cooperative agreement to jointly promote the Ecuadorian Ministry of Tourism in Europe. We hope to work in the same way to promote with Air France the direct route to Ecuador as a tourist destination in the international markets during the coming months.