Business trip: Quito
For business travellers, capital city Quito has long played second fiddle to Guayaquil, Ecuador's financial hub, and according to the country’s Ministry of Tourism, it ranks 11th within South America as a conference and meeting destination. But with the 2016 opening of a $35 million convention centre on the site of the city's former downtown airport, Quito has its eyes set on climbing up that list.
And the city is already visibly on the move. Thanks in part to the ministry's multi-pronged approach of enhancing safety standards in Quito, boosting the quality of hotel and tourism amenities, and attracting the kinds of convention and business traffic that will lift up its economy, business traveller numbers to Quito, often the gateway to other Ecuadorian cities, are on the rise as part of the overall visitor count, which has risen about 7% each year for the past three years according to the Ministry of Tourism.
In February, the new Mariscal Sucre International Airport opened 40km east of the city. The construction of a new highway in early 2014 will cut travel time to the airport by almost half (taxi fares should clock in at about $25).
A new metro system is under construction, beginning at the old airport, which is now an interim meetings venue and public park known as the Centro de Eventos Bicentenario (soon to be the site of the new convention centre), and continuing through the city's colonial centre, ending in Quitumbe, a neighbourhood south of the city. The project is set to be completed in late 2014.
The city's exciting growth prospects were confirmed when Quito won the coveted World Travel Award for " South America's Leading Destination", at the July 2013 World Travel Award ceremony for Central and South America in Lima, Peru. The honour is considered the Oscar of the travel industry, and reaffirmed the need to protect and promote Quito’s colonial centre, which was named a Unesco World Cultural Heritage Site in 1978.
The 275-room Swissotel Quito, winner of the 2013 World Travel Award of "Best Hotel in Ecuador", sits in the heart of the financial Floresta neighbourhood. It is less than 2km from La Mariscal, a bustling entertainment district full of bars, cafes and shops. Ongoing renovations at the hotel will see the introduction of electronic window blinds in all rooms (all of which have excellent views of either the Cotopaxi or Pichincha volcanoes) and renewed local art. Perhaps the hotel's biggest draw, however, is Tanoshii, its Japanese restaurant. It was the first of its kind in the city, and the chef oversees a menu of teppanyaki and sushi entrees.
Across from El Ejido public park – the site of a regular weekend art and handicraft fair hawking everything from fine leather products to traditional embroidered blankets – the 255-room Hilton Colon hotel is home to the city's newest meetings and convention venue The hotel consists of three towers named after Christopher Columbus' armada of ships: the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. The newest is the Pinta tower, which has 42 refreshed suites and 21 meeting rooms, offering the most meeting space in the city centre. La Pinta, the hotel’s breakfast venue, opens at 2 am for travellers departing on early-morning flights.
Le Parc Hotel is one of Quito's most modern, with 30 suites and plans to double the number to 60 by spring 2014. The decor is unlike anything the city has seen before, infusing a bit of London and New York design via hanging chrome bedside lamps and animal print fabrics into a city proud of its colonial heritage. Guest suites are some of the city's largest, with hardwood floors, cushioned headboards and striking artwork throughout. Its location in the Carolina neighbourhood provides overworked guests with close proximity to the city's botanical gardens, Jardin Botanico de Quito, situated inside La Carolina Park