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Tourism in Ecuador Essay

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            Tourism has played important roles in a country, thus it has emerged to be one of the important sector. When more visitors came as tourists, income is generated and local people get employed as more jobs are created. These jobs are created because more products and services are needed to meet the needs of the visitors. According to the research conducted by the World Travel and Tourism Council in 2000, the travel and tourism industry will generate about 11.7 percent of GDP and more than 200 million jobs in the year 2010 (“The Global Importance of Tourism”, 1).

Jobs are created in various industry such as telecommunications, transportation, manufacturing, agriculture, gaming, and tourism itself.

            Aside from that, tourism also contributes to the sustainable development of a country. It plays a lead role in the conservation and protection of the natural resources and environment such as wildlife parks, beaches, and forests. It also contributes to the conservation and improvement of cultural heritages such as museums, churches, ancestral houses and antiquities.

Tourism has been also one of the causes of the development of infrastructures and related services such as airports, roads, bridges, ports, recreational facilities, hotels, and restaurants.

            With the many contributions of tourism to a country, it has become a challenge to make a country a competitive destination to be able to attract more tourists and enjoy the benefits created by tourism. This paper then discusses the condition of tourism in Ecuador, a country in South America.

Ecuador has not been very much a choice of study when it comes to tourism because there are many other more popular countries in this region including Brazil and Argentina. It is therefore the objectives of this paper to determine the condition of Ecuador as a tourist destination and to determine its destination competitiveness by comparing it to other country in South America. The first section is literature review that provides ideas and concepts about destination competitiveness. The following sections are about tourism in Ecuador as compared to Argentina.

Literature Review

            Tourism in a country can be considered to be successful when it can be able to compete with other tourist destinations. Because of the development in transportation today that enables people to travel easily, competition among the tourist destinations have become global, forcing countries to compete in the international tourism market. Competition becomes more intense with neighboring countries that offer almost the same products and services thus destination competitiveness is important.

Defining destination competitiveness, it is “the ability of a destination to deliver goods and services that perform better than the other destinations on those aspects of the tourism experience considered to be important by tourists” (Dwyer & Kim, 374). Like in a manufacturing company for instance, it can be said to competitive in its industry when it has delivered the goods and services most valued by the consumers which can be price, quality, or brand name. Dwyer et al (9) added that “competitiveness encompasses price differentials, productivity levels of the different components of the tourism industry, and the qualitative factors affecting the attractiveness of a destination”.

            From these definitions, it can be viewed that the success of tourism in a destination, a country in particular, depends on its competitiveness while destination competitiveness is determined by many factors. Crouch & Ritchie (146) suggests that destination competitiveness is determined by four major components which are: (1) core resources and attractors; (2) supporting factors and resources; (3) destination management; and (4) qualifying determinants.

            Core resources and attractors “are the fundamental reasons that prospective visitors choose one destination over another” (Crouch & Ritchie, 146). These are basically the motivators that provide appeal and makes a destination interesting such as physiography, culture and history, special events and activities, market ties, and tourism superstructure. Dwyer & Kim (380-381) suggest that core resources can be classified as endowed and created.

Endowed resources are the physiography and culture and heritage of a destination which are inherited by the destination such as landscapes, climate, scenery and other physical assets of a country (e.g. lakes, mountains, beaches, forests) as well as language, cuisine, music and traditions. Created resources are those built specifically to attract visitors such as amusement parks, recreational facilities, casinos, museums, zoo, shopping malls, and other attractions. Commonly, the resources mentioned here are associated with the range of available activities offered by a destination. Commonly, the activities that attract visitors include water sports, biking, mountain climbing, ecotourism, night clubbing, shopping, and gambling.

            Market ties which refers to the linkages with people in origin markets (Dwyer & Kim, 385) is considered by Crouch and Ritchie (146) as a core resource while Dwyer and Kim considered market ties as a supporting resource. Nevertheless, market ties is an important resource for tourism. It involves cooperation of and collaboration with markets that can complement the tourism industry. An example is the market tie of the tourism industry with the airline industry. Tourism superstructure on the other hand refers to the facilities important in tourism such as accommodation facilities (e.g. hotels), food services (e.g. restaurants), transportation facilities (e.g. airports),and other facilities and services (Enright & Newton, 341).

            Also classified as core resources and attractors is entertainment. According to Dwyer & Kim (382), competitiveness of the entertainment offered by a destination is based on the uniqueness of the entertainment offering and not on number of entertainments available. Same is true with special events which are commonly associated with culture or religion (e.g. Ati-atihan or Mascara festival in the Philippines).

            Moreover, supporting factors and resources “provide a foundation upon which successful tourism industry can be established” (Crouch & Ritchie, 148). They are those that enhance and make the visit a good experience to visitors. These include  accessibility of destination, communication infrastructure, public services available, hospitality, quality of service, local transportation infrastructure, and other related services.

Accessibility of destination is influenced by frequency and quality of transportation access, transportation regulations and restrictions and safety. According to Prideaux (56) choices of destinations is influenced by the quality of transport system such that uncompetitive practices, safety concerns, comfort levels and journey time are the concerns of tourists.

            The third determinant of competitiveness is destination management. Franch & Martini (5) define destination management as “the strategic, organizational, and operative decisions taken to manage the process, definition, promotion and commercialization of the tourism product [originating from within the destination] to generate manageable flows of incoming tourists that are balanced, sustainable and sufficient to meet the economic needs of the local actors involved in the destination”. Destination management is therefore an important aspect of tourism for it ensures the proper flow of activities involved in tourism such as marketing, resource maintenance and development,and coordination. The organizations that performs such activities are generally called as destination management organizations (DMOs).

              The World Tourism Organization (WTO) suggests that DMOs fall into three categories: national level, generally known as the National Tourism Organization (NTO); regional, provincial or state level; and local level (Ritchie et al, 2-3).  Commonly, it is the various public sectors that are organized as DMOs but there are also private organizations, joint public/private organization agency, and non-for-profit membership-based organizations formed as destination management organizations (Ritchie et al, 3).

Included in the activities of the public sector are the the development of national tourism strategies, marketing by the NTO, national and regional manpower programs, environmental protection legislation and other destination policy and environmental management (Dwyer & Kim,  379). The activities of the private sector on the other hand include organizing hospitality industry associations, industry involvement in and funding of destination marketing programs, industry training programs, and environmental programs (Dwyer & Kim, 379).

            The fourth determinant of destination competitiveness is called qualifying determinants which include price competitiveness, exchange rate, location, safety and security, shifting demographics of the marketplace, image, and interdependencies between and within destinations (Crouch and Ritchie, 149). Most of these qualifying determinants are influenced by the macro-environment of the destination which can be out of control by the DMOs thus tourism-related programs and strategies of a destination plays a critical role in addressing the changes affecting the condition of tourism in a country.

Current Study: Ecuador and Argentina

            Ecuador is a small country belonging to the region of South America, also known as Latin America. The country derived its name from the word equator as it lies literally along the equator. It is geographically located in the West of South America; at its north is Colombia, at its south is Peru and at its west is the Pacific Ocean. The country’s largest and capital city is Quito, situated  at the northern part of the country.

It has about 13,547, 510 people in population and most of them speak Spanish while others speak  Amerindian languages but the ethnic majority group is mixed Amerindian and white followed by Amerindian and Spanish. The dominant religion in the country is Roman Catholic. The climate in Ecuador varies depending on the location: tropical along the coast, cooler at inland at higher elevations, and tropical in the jungle lowlands of Amazonian (The World Factbook).

            The country is divided into four regions: the Coast, the Highlands, the Amazon and the Galapagos Islands (Ministry of Tourism of Ecuador). The Galapagos Islands is a major attractor in Ecuador. It is a destination for nature-oriented tourism that in 1990, over 41,000 tourists visited the Galapagos Island (Drumm, 11).

The Islands are located at the northwest of  and about a thousand kilometers away from the country’s mainland. As this region comprises of islands, specifically thirteen islands, the major attractions are beaches, caves, white sand, the Tortuga Bay, tunnels of lava, marine reserves, diving areas, tropical birds, marine iguanas, sea lions, penguins, pelicans and many more (Ministry of Tourism of Ecuador). Major activities in the region include diving, swimming and ecotourism.

            In the Amazon region, the core attractions include the rain forests, lakes, rivers, tropical forests, wildlife, national park, and waterfalls. The destination is considered as protected areas. Major activities in the region, aside from ecotourism and fishing, are rafting and kayaking. There are schools, instructors and guides that facilitate the activities. The region is also a home to natives and indigenous ethnic groups that reflect the culture of the local residents; handicrafts and artisan goods; and Shamanism.

            The Coast region boasts its beaches, national parks, fishing villages, ecological reserves, rivers, wildlife, rain forests and the world’s tallest mangroves. Major activities in the region include surfing, swimming, jet skiing, fishing, and boating. As a popular destination for both locals and tourists, there are various restaurants that complement the place.  The Andes region on the other hands is divided into two: North and South Andes. The Andes region boasts its mountains, volcanoes, snow-capped peaks, national parks, landscapes, lakes, and ecological reserves. Ecuador is the home of the world’s highest active volcano, the Cotopaxi. Major activities in the region is trekking, mountain climbing, fishing, paragliding, and sailing. The country also offers rural tourism is which tourism can experience the county living with its haciendas, as well as cultural festivals.

            Quito, the capital city was declared as a Cultural Heritage of Humanity site by UNESCO because of its architectural beauty, churches, convents, historical sites and museums. The city also celebrates various festivals including the bullfights, the election of the Queen Quito, concerts, street dances and fireworks. There are also indigenous markets in the city as well as archaeological ruins and historical routes.

Ecuador was once a colony of Spain thus there are still traces of Spanish culture in the country through the historical sites and architectures found not only in Quito but also inotehr cities and provinces across the country. Cuenca, for instance, was declared a World Heritage   Site by UNESCO and chosen as the Cultural Capital of the Americas in 2002 (Ministry of Tourism of Ecuador). . The city has various churches and century old architectures. It also host the International Art Fair that has made the city famous.

            Moreover, transportation in the country include airports which can be found in the twelve key cities, offering international and domestic flights. There are more than 20 international airlines in the country more than five domestic airlines. Buses are the common means of transportation in the country, either going around the cities or going to provinces. There are also taxi cabs in the big cities available 24 hours.

            However, despite of these attractions, safety and security in the country is unstable. The US Department of State reports that there are political demonstrations and public protests occurring frequently in the cities as well as organized crime, drug trafficking and unrest in some provinces. Crime and robbery often occur public places such as markets, airports, and restaurants. There was a political instability in the country characterized by the declaration of state of emergency in 2005 and national elections in 2006.

            Overall, tourism in the country ranks low in South American inbound tourism rankings. The tourism industry generated only 4 percent of GDP in 1991 to 2001. However, the country experience growth rates in 2001 and 2002, reflecting that the industry is emerges as a promising industry that can generate income for the people of Ecuador. In fact, in 2001, the tourism industry generated more than 60,000 jobs, mostly from the food and beverage sector (49%), followed by the hospitality industry (30%), travel agencies, recreation and other services.  Tourism in Ecuador is managed by the Ministry of Tourism of Ecuador and other organizations mostly focused on environmental conservation.

            Argentina, unlike Ecuador is a large country, the eighth largest in the world. It also boasts its beaches (Mar del Plata is a world famous beach resort in the country), national parks, museums and cultural heritages. There are also various festivities and carnivals celebrated all year round in the country. Like Ecuador, Argentina also has its share of places  registered in UNESCO such as the  Cave of the Hands, Iguazu National Park, Peninsula Valdes and many more, reflecting the rich cultural heritage of the country. Generally, Argentina and Ecuador have many things in common as far as core resources and attractors are concern. However, the two countries differ in terms of popularity. Argentina has become popular due to its political history, high standard of living and improving economy (US Department of State) while Ecuador remain low profile.

            In a report of the World Tourism Organization in 2005, international tourist arrival in Argentina is far more ahead than that of Ecuador. In that report, Brazil was reported to have 3353 tourist arrival in 2004 while Ecuador has only 819 in that same year.  What is positive in the report, however, is that Ecuador has a positive growth rate of 6.9 while Brazil got an average growth rate of only 3.6.

From this it can be viewed that although Ecuador is far behind the popularity of Argentina based on the number of tourist arrival, Ecuador is slowly emerging to be a tourist destination, which signifies that it began gaining some popularities among the tourists. This is because of Ecuador’s adoption of dollar as its national currency. Dollarization has stabilized the country’s economy (US Department of State).  The table below shows the statistical comparison of  Ecuador and Argentina.

Country 1990 1995 2000 2002 2003 2004 Market Share in the Region in 2004, % Average annual growth rate, %
Ecuador 362 440 627 683 761 819 0.7 6.9
Argentina 1930 2289 2909 2820 2995 3353 2.7 3.6

Source: WTO, 2005

Recommendations and Conclusion

            Based on the comparison conducted between Ecuador and Argentina using the determinants of destination competitiveness, Ecuador is a potential destination. It is rich in natural attractions and core resources which according to the literature reviewed are the primary reasons why tourists visit the destination. Additionally, its being a small country offers tourists the possibility to travel to as many destinations as possible across the country. However, due to the political instability in the country that can be traced back as early as 1960s, the government of Ecuador had not been focused on improving and developing its tourism industry, only in 1990s when other countries have already developed their tourism sector. In fact, Ecuador’s DMO at the national level, the Ministry of Tourism of Ecuador, was only formed in 1992.

            It is therefore recommended that Ecuador must extensively promote tourism in the international tourism market. Its core resources and attractors must be known worldwide, attracting tourists who want to experience travel and recreation at an affordable price. Also, the country’s adoption of US dollar as its national currency is an advantage because it does not only stabilize the economy but also create competitiveness in terms of destination price.

Thus it is recommended that Ecuador take advantage of this by focusing on its weaknesses such as safety and security. The country must be promoted as a safe destination by promoting safe and affordable travel, adding more services and institutions that promote safety and security to visitors, create more establishments and recreational facilities, and organized more DMOs that will manage and market the activities of tourism in Ecuador.

            In summary, Ecuador’s strength as a destination is basically its core resources and attractors. It is also price competitive and it also offers interesting programs and activities which can be reflected with its improving number of tourist arrival in the past years. However, to be able to stabilize tourism, the country must be able to address and work on its weaknesses and make Ecuador a unique destination since it has many similarities with its neighboring countries.


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            Accessed online on March 31, 2007


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