If 2020 and 2021 were the years of returning to familiar destinations, 2022 could be the start of a period of blossoming bucket-list travel, experiences that were put on hold because of the pandemic and are now being considered more than ever by consumers.
Think about the products that have made headlines over the past year, experiences that include world cruises that have sold out repeatedly, experiences that consumers only take once in a lifetime. While some still remain the same, consumers are looking for new and interesting destinations, one of which could be Quito.
Quito is Ecuador’s capital, the closest capital city to the equator, and the second-highest official capital city in the world. In 1978, it was one of the two first-ever cities, along with Krakow, Poland, to be declared World Culture Heritages Sites by UNESCO.
The city is just three hours and a half from Miami, making it an attractive destination for North Americans looking for something more exotic than the Caribbean or Mexico. According to Cristina Rivadeneira, the general manager of the Quito Tourism Board, the city was doing well pre-COVID, averaging around 700,000 tourists a year, mostly from the U.S., Canada, Germany, and France.
And while the pandemic has certainly changed things, including impacting flights into Quito like a former direct flight from Dallas, the city has found itself on the bucket list for so many travelers.
“There are experiences in Quito that you cannot find anywhere else,” Rivadeneira told TMR. “Experiences that really put the city on the map.”
The bottom line, according to Rivadeneira, is that the variety of experiences, along with some of the world’s most iconic sites, and a pre-Incan Old Town, is driving interest in the destination.
“You can have breakfast in the Galapagos islands, lunch on the pacific coast, and then dinner in the capital,” Rivadeneira said.
Quito has long been a launching point for Galapagos excursions, a bucket-list item for so many travelers. Flying from Quito to Galapagos takes about two and a half hours, so the city, with its international airport and luxury offerings, makes it a good jumping-off point for those looking to see the islands.
The city is also in traveling distance (about 30 miles) from Cotopaxi, the second-highest summit in Ecuador and one of the highest active volcanoes in the world (its more recent eruption came five years ago), giving it an adventure side for some travelers.
For nature, Quito is just about 90 minutes from Ecuador’s Cloud Forest, a 2,000-acre conservation area on the northwestern slopes of the Andean mountain range. The forest is one of the most biodiverse areas in the world and home to a huge variety of bird species. According to Rivadeneira, guests spending one day in the Cloud Forest can see up to 140 different specifies of birds.
As its capital city, Quito also gives travelers a taste of what Ecuador as a whole has to offer, including in its coffee, chocolate, and culinary industries, something that has been the highlight of so many Ecuador Tours. That includes the G Adventures Coastal Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands Tour, which highlights fresh fish dishes that the area is known for (Rivadeneira told TMR that Quito is one of the world’s largest shrimp exporters).
For lodging, the JW Marriott has a property within the city, joining a number of independent properties in the city’s Old Town, preserved because of the UNESCO Heritage Site designation. That includes Casa Gangotena, a newly restored historic mansion overlooking Plaza San Francisco, along with the Villa Colonna Quito, a six-room boutique hotel located next to Old Town.
Most travelers coming into Quito travel with a tour company, Rivadeneira added. “That market is very important for us,” she said. Aside from G Adventures, Metropolitan Touring, Intrepid, National Geographic, and more all offer tours in the city.
As for how COVID-19 is impacting the travel experience in Quito, Ecuador is currently on the CDC’s Level 3 advisory list. Travelers are required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days before entering the country and proof of COVID-19 vaccination completed at least two weeks prior to entering.