How has Cuenca managed to attract the interest of investors?
There are a number of reasons behind this trend. In general, it is due to a historically sustainable economic development strategy. Cuenca has the highest literacy rate in the country. On average, people in Cuenca receive over 11 years of formal education. Thus, the city has the most skilled workforce in the country, attracting value-added industries. On the subject of value-added industries, Cuenca is the only city in Ecuador where the income from industrial activities is higher than the income from commercial activities. There is an important entrepreneurial spirit in our people. By 2020, we are on track to be recognized as the second-most important city worldwide, and the first in Americas, in local crafts. Obviously, the potential is huge, considering that Cuenca only represents 3.8% of Ecuador's current economic output. We are primed to receive projects across every sector and have the right conditions for businesses to prosper in our city. Furthermore, we are adding to our offer a plan to build an innovation space for collaboration between technology-related businesses, institutions, and other stakeholders.
On the subject of tourism, the city's center is listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. How does the municipality plan to capitalize on its tourism potential?
There is untapped potential in this sector, and we need to properly plan to seize it. In the past, the city won awards as a great destination for short vacations. We are trying to evolve our brand by developing the destination as a whole, creating a promotion strategy, starting a tourism observatory to provide statistics and trends, and making a public-private development fund for future JVs. We are also interested in exploring our opportunities in MICE tourism. Alongside construction, this is the sector that creates the biggest amount of jobs, and we want to find ways to improve our offer as a tourist destination for both international and local markets. In this regard, we have identified connectivity as one of our key areas that need further development. Improved connectivity will significantly increase the number of incoming tourists and investors. We are working on an airport expansion that would connect us to major regional hubs such as Lima and Bogotá. We are building a new land terminal at the northern part of the city to better connect with routes to and from other important cities in Ecuador. Within the city, we are developing a tram project that will cover 27 stations.
What will be the role of private companies in the long-term growth of Cuenca, and what is your message to investors?
Adding to the previously mentioned projects, we will build four markets, including one with a 40,000-people capacity to connect local producers to end consumers. We are developing a gentrification plan to enhance public spaces through improving some areas and building new recreational spaces. Securing funding is key to successfully execute planned projects, which is why we have created a relationship with CAF, the development bank of Latin America. We have also approached others organizations to change the paradigms and elevate the importance of local governments in the policy execution process. We need to reduce the housing deficit by easing access to credit and incentivizing the residential construction sector. We have discussed the possibility of building a new football stadium and a new theater with a private contractor. Similarly, we have identified the need for a wide range of recreational activities that can be built and operated through PPPs. Cuenca has a strong local identity and an important set of traditional values that translate into a skilled workforce of motivated, honest, and hardworking people. We are confident that our people are our best resource and the key factor that can attract successful business ventures to come to Cuenca.