With a vision of the future, the Ministry of Tourism implements compatible strategies related to the issue of sustainability, not only in terms of increased tourist arrivals, but additionally, focusing on the redistribution of wealth within the country.
Christian Alfredo Mera
Undersecretary for Tourism Development
Certainly, it is not free the deserved recognition achieved by Ecuador and its manager, the Ministry of Tourism, of obtaining recognition of the World Tourism Organization, an organization that is part of the World Council for Sustainable Tourism Bureau. Our interviewee shows the context in which this new and deserved award occurs.
1. When speaking of sustainable tourism in Ecuador, which are the policies implemented by the MINTUR respect to the natural, cultural and social environment of the country?
Starting this year, the Ministry of Tourism has a new work strategy that is very consistent with the theme of sustainability. Not only the arrival of tourists is measured, but also the distribution of wealth and the inclusion of local communities are measured. It also works closely with the tourism industry.
2. How is Ecuador prepared for the increase in tourist arrivals to the country, in relation to the quality of the improvement of the offer?
This year was declared as the year of tourism quality, precisely to be prepared for the arrival of new tourists in the coming years. From this perspective, the strategy is integral and leverages the provision of services offered by the people and senior officers, who are trained and certified in both operational and administrative working skills. This control over the quality management also applies to tourist accommodations, both to those who are just beginning within the activity as well as those who have a few years providing such services. Under the Q brand, the Q regulations are applied to them. The brand is linked to sustainability criteria and recognizes the compliance of all the best practice mechanisms of sustainable tourism.
Sustainable tourism has actions in all three areas of sustainability:
Environmental: - Environmental care, waste management, energy conservation, resource optimization.
Social: - Entailment to local communities, participation, empowerment of their cultural values, among others.
Economic: - Strengthening of companies.
All these aspects form part of the quality management system. The Q quality standard has indicators that include measurement of all processes up to the end customer, whether they are domestic or foreign tourists. It also has what are called sustainability audits; they are indicators against which the standards are contrasted and evaluated.
These controls and evaluations are performed by a core team formed in the Ministry and are supplemented by outsourcing processes.
3. What is the transcendence of the Ministry of Tourism commitment with the Global Sustainable Tourism Council?
Ecuador is the pioneer country in America in adopting sustainability criteria. There are four macro systems linked to sustainability. Thus, the commitment to the Global Sustainable Tourism Council is to show that we have worked on a quality strategy, evaluation systems and criteria that have been applied to all the destinations.
Once recognition is obtained, the next phase is to select the destination and begin the implementation process of the standard to obtain an international certification.
4. What aspects would you highlight in the sustainability model for the tourism sector lead by the MINTUR?
The Ministry of Tourism works closely with the tourism industry and the academia. This public-private relationship is quite strong.
Ecuador has an interesting history. In the 90s, we already were the example in providing ecotourism services and having sustainability standards. Ecuador is the only country with the sustainability seal in South America: the Smart Voyager Seal, inter-continentally endorsed by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.
The aforementioned seal received UNESCO´s recognition in 2002 for the treatment of its natural areas. We can say that ecotourism originated in Ecuador, specifically in the Galapagos Islands, where its work began in the 70s. The history of Ecuador is fairly extended and what we presently do is delve into all aspects, target and strengthen them, and mainly communicate them to the world.
5. What was the response of the United Nations and the World Tourism Organization?
We were congratulated and received recognition from the Secretary General of the WTO itself, Talev Rifai. By adopting these criteria, the UN is indirectly endorsing the work on the destination, focused on sustainability. WTO members, internationally and in the region, are part of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.
6. Which are the goals that the MINTUR aims to achieve this year?
The strategy does not focus solely on the arrival of tourists, but also in increasing expenditure, which helps to improve the quality of services and is part of the sustainability issues to which we have referred to.
Tourism in Ecuador is growing fast. It is around the average of worldwide tourism. In 2014 we reached a growth of 14% and this year it is expected to achieve an additional 7%. To achieve this we have prioritized markets, destinations and products. It is worth noting that domestic tourism is considered a priority within the policies and purposes of the MINTUR for this year. The promotion is done through the development of the two campaigns, Ecuador Tourism Power (a campaign to instill values) and First Travel Ecuador (where the offer and destinations in the country are promoted).
The work of the Ministry of Tourism is focused to aligning it with global trends and in developing joint work between the industry and the academia, focused on improving services. This is why the following campaigns are already being implemented: clean toilets at service stations; clean beaches, focused on the quality of the destination.
We highlight the processes developed in training, product quality, reduced paperwork, and technological improvement to land register, prioritization of market actions, country promotion and positioning. This is why success has been achieved - for example - in the international campaign All You Need is Ecuador Trade.