Minister of Tourism calls on CNH for help

Last January 8th, a drug lord escaped from a prison in Ecuador.  His escape was soon followed by an armed gang bursting into a television studio during a live broadcast, brandishing arms (they were all arrested).  These events, particularly the live streaming of the armed gang, made international headlines.   While the government of Ecuador quickly and effectively responded, and while the violence associated with those events was brought under control within 2 days, the international community was left with a lasting impression of total insecurity in the entire country.  

As a result of that impression, many people with travel plans to Ecuador decided to cancel. At CNH Tours, almost all our booked guests with upcoming trips to Ecuador carried on with their plans.  Since the events of the 8 of January, over 100 of our guests have completed their trips to Galapagos, the Amazon, the cloud forest, through Guayaquil and beyond - and we’ve not received one report from any of them indicating any sense of insecurity. 

We responded to guests expressing concerns by sharing our experience with this kind of situation.  CNH Tours has been closely involved in Ecuador since 1998, when its owners (Marc and Heather) first moved there to take up a job at the Charles Darwin Research Station.  We started helping people with their Ecuador travel plans in 1999 (a friend’s cruise).  Over these past 25 years, we’ve witnessed many instances of disruption in the country, including:

  • Dollarization – when the entire economy switched from the former currency, the Sucre, to the US Dollar leading to high degrees of uncertainty;
  • Eruption of the Pichincha volcano, closing the Quito airport;
  • Several popular “invasions” or demonstrations in Quito, with rural people streaming into the city, some leading to the overthrow of the government, others resulting in the burning down of the country’s tax agency headquarters;
  • A triumvirate – where a president was run out of the country, to be replaced by a short-lived presidency simultaneously held by three co-presidents;
  • Fishermen’s strikes in Galapagos, blocking the main road in Santa Cruz, and access to the local docks…

Never, in any of these situations, were any of our guests targeted.   In the worst-case scenario, our guests may have had to spend a night in a hotel closer to the airport instead of in the city – to avoid any transport delays on their way to Galapagos.   Never did any of our guests (or any other visitor to the country, to our knowledge) feel threatened.

It has been our experience that such disruptions in the regular day to day life of Ecuadorians are typically very limited in scope, very short-lived, and never target visitors. 

Based on our 25 year experience in the country, and thanks to our good network of local contacts, it was clear to us that by the 10th of January, things were a lot less serious than what the images in the media led us to believe.   We felt comfortable reassuring our guests that the risk level to them was very low (nothing is risk free of course) and we encouraged them not to cancel their trips.

Unfortunately, images broadcast on television and the internet fuelled an undue sense of panic. Even today, I’m seeing many questions on social media, wondering if it’s now safe to travel to Ecuador.   I respond that it has been as safe as it has always been.  

Niels Olsen - Minister for Tourism, Ecuador

During our recent 3.5 weeks in Ecuador, we asked hospitality workers and business representatives how the events had affected their business.  Almost all reported cancellations and a drop in sales.  The hotel we use in Quito (Mama Cuchara) was almost empty (26 rooms) – thankfully, our not-for-profit friend’s trip helped bring in business there (17 rooms for 2 nights) and most of our other guests will spend at least a night there.   The owner of the hotel asked if CNH Tours would be willing to speak with the Minister of Tourism (Niels Olsen) – a contact of his – and share our thoughts about the situation in Ecuador.  We spoke with the Minister and he sent a small team of videographers to capture our thoughts.    You can see the video here, on their Instagram account.   

 Mama Cuchara boutique hotel

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