July 2, 2011
Quito, the millenary and historic capital of Ecuador was the host city, last week, to the Third Edition of the International Tourism and Culture Fair and Business Encounter, "Cultour 2011". This increasingly important event which focuses on enhancing the bonds between tourism and culture, worldwide, is organized by the Spanish firm GSAR Marketing, specialized in congresses and business rounds for the tourism and travel industry. The previous venues for the event were two European cities, packed with history and culture: Santiago de Compostela, Spain and Cologne, Germany.
Quito was chosen by the organizers this year, considering that the capital of Ecuador was the first city in the world to be declared by UNESCO a World Cultural Heritage Site, in 1978, for having the largest and best preserved Historic Center in Latin America. Also Quito had been declared as the "2011 Cultural Capital of the Americas" and to top the list of distinctions, it became the first city in the American continent to be the seat of the Cultour International Fair.
The business rounds and main events took place at Quito's impressive "Crystal Palace", a historic building constructed by Eifel close to two hundred years ago, atop one of Quito's ceremonial hills, the famous Itchimbia Hill, which boasts a more than spectacular view of much of the great city, including its Historic and Colonial Center, dotted with the domes and towers of more than four centuries' old cathedrals, cloisters and convents as well as colorful neighborhoods crawling and creeping over hills and slopes of the majestic Pichincha Volcano, the city's eternal guardian.
The Encounter was attended by more than one hundred buyers from 24 countries of all the continents and dozens of exhibitors and sellers, mainly from Ecuador, but also from such remote destinations as Bhutan, a first-timer at this kind of international tourism fairs and a first timer in Ecuador. The business encounters were planned to feature, in one and a half day of intensive pre-programmed sessions of 20 minutes each, close to 1600 business sessions between sellers and buyers, expecting to generate, according to the organizing firm, an estimated 70 million dollars in future transactions. Participants included cities with rich cultural heritages and features; government institutions, private tour operators, airlines, hotels and hotel chains, tourism bureaus, conventions' centers and a host of other tourism related services' suppliers and outfitters.
As a host country and city, Ecuador's Ministry of Tourism, the City of Quito's Municipal Tourism Bureau and the private entrepreneurs took the opportunity to showcase the city and the country as a first class tourism destination, extraordinarily rich in cultural attractions, old and new. The international visitors were treated to a special Tour of the City which included some of its most splendid and well guarded treasures of colonial art, archaeology, history and a "temple" of modern art, the famous "Chapel of Man", constructed in the 20th century by Ecuador's most universal and representative contemporary painter, the late Oswaldo Guayasamin. The Inaugural ceremony took place at the beautifully remodeled Eugenio Espejo Conventions' Center and keynote speakers of the evening to welcome the participants were the Minister of Tourism of Ecuador and the Mayor of the City of Quito. The event was complemented with a festive folkloric show, representing the millenary celebrations in honor of the Sun God, the "Inti Raymi", taking place precisely on the last days of June. The Fair's agenda also featured a professional Workshop about Ecuador and Quito as premier tourism destinations and other social and professional activities.
Fourteen travel writers and specialized journalists from over ten countries in Europe, North, Central and South America were invited to the Fair and, in addition to participating of the Fair and its associated events, they were treated with a special post tour of the country's North and Central Andes, enjoying the awesome Avenue of the Volcanoes; the Province of the Lakes; ancient colonial Haciendas; superb plantations of roses for-export and visiting the legendary Otavalo Indian Market as well as Cotopaxi National Park. A highlight of their tour was a train ride on Ecuador's equally legendary railway, where they had the company, as one more passenger with his family, of the President of Ecuador, who happily talked to the visiting travel writers and posed for countless pictures with them. With this event, Quito and Ecuador strengthened the country's promotion as a top-class tourism and travel destination.