Ecuador promotes travel to mainland

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NEW YORK -- Ecuador's Ministry of Tourism last month rolled out a public relations and marketing campaign in the U.S. that's expected to cost $5 million to $10 million in 2003.

Included in the effort are enhanced sources of information and fam trips for the trade.

The country's new minister of tourism, Doris Solis Carrion, launched the campaign during a mini-road show that included meetings with U.S. tour operators to develop and exchange ideas for growing the business.

Solis said, during a presentation to the press, that a large majority of 80 tour operators who sell South America, reported in a survey that they expected continued growth in travel to Ecuador (72%) and that they would increase their companies' offerings (74%).

Using the theme, "Ecuador: Galapagos, Andes, Amazon and the Pacific Coast ... a Journey Beyond the Ordinary," the marketing effort aims to create a stronger brand image for the South American country and to showcase and promote travel to the Ecuadorian mainland, effectively downplaying the major role that the Galapagos Islands play.

Minister Solis said Ecuador's touristic attractions "were promoted very little in the past. The new government [inaugurated on Jan. 15] will change this."

The destination has many selling points, she said, including proximity to the U.S., stability and affordability.

"Latin America is seen as safer than many other destinations," the tourism official said.

Solis said the ministry will host four eight- to 10-day fam trips for travel agents this year, and the ministry will distribute a bimonthly newsletter for agents and tour operators.

The ministry said it will also partner with tour operators in radio and other promotions, still to be determined.

The ministry, although not ready to open a tourist office in the U.S., also aims to make it easier for people to get more information locally. Hence, the government plans to tap one person each at the country's 10 consulates in the U.S. to promote tourism and serve as a tourism contact for agents and travelers.

It also will promote its Web site at www.vivecuador.com as an information source, and it aims to enable surfers to order brochures online.

On the public relations side, Ecuadorian officials said there will be a New York-based "news bureau" to assist the media.

The 2003 promotional budget comes from Ecuador's Tourism Promotion Fund, a public-private agency created last year.

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