The World Heritage Site (WHS) assigned to me was Quito. The city of Quito is the capital of the Republic of Ecuador and is undoubtedly one of the most compelling destinations of the world. The Historic Centre of Quito, also known as the Old Town is home to more than 130 monumental buildings which make the place, the largest, least-altered and the best-preserved historic center in the Americas. Because of this architectural beauty and spell bounding ambience, Quito was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, thus gaining the honor of being the first of its kind.
Every year, thousands of tourists visit Quito in order to behold its ever refreshing beauty and sprawling beauty and surely take back loads of memories! In order to learn more about the city (in particular) and the country of Ecuador (in general) , I tried to contact 3 experts/ institutions from different fields that can truly be called the ‘Masters of Quito’!
1. Emma Morgan
Originally from the UK, Emma is an efficient travel blogger, a proficient guide and a proud owner of a travel company in Ecuador. She organized and led her first trip to Ecuador for a group of British teachers back in 1999, whilst working at the Swansea Environment Centre in South Wales. After meeting her Ecuadorian husband, Emma finally came to live in Ecuador in 2002. She is passionate about Ecuador and she especially enjoys visiting Galapagos and the Cotopaxi. Emma now has over 10 years of experience in the Ecuadorian tourism industry and this has come only through leading, developing & running active tours across Quito & Galapagos. Although Emma was on a vacation, she was kind enough to reply to all my mails and give extensive replies to my questions.
Emma’s work is available publicly on the following sites:
Twitter handle: @quiwal
1. Are you an Ecuadorian national by birth?
If not, then which country do you call home? I’m originally from Wales in the UK.
2. So when was the first time you visited Quito?
I visited Quito for the first time in 1999.
3. Please tell us in brief about your first trip to Quito.
Was it a professional or a family excursion? Which sites did you visit? The first time I visited Quito I was leading a group of teachers from the UK on an educational and cultural trip. We visited the cloud forest, the Amazon rainforest, Cotopaxi Volcano and Quito. In Quito we spent a day visiting the historical centre (old town) – Independence Square, San Francisco Square and church. Also El Panecillo.
4. Ok, so from England to Ecuador, it must have been a long journey?
Can you please tell us how and when did it come to your mind that “ yes, Ecuador is my dream home”? My husband is from Quito, so that is why I have settled in Ecuador. It is an amazing place to live, especially if you appreciate natural beauty and diversity.
5.I guess your decision of making Quito your home town has served you well. Please tell us something about the culture of the place and about the lifestyle of the common people there.
Quito is a vibrant and busy city, with a mixture of culture. In the old town you will often encounter a variety of people from different Andean indigenous groups from around Ecuador. You can distinguish them by the traditional & colourful attire that they wear. They may originate from a specific area of Ecuador such as Otavalo or Zuleta but will have come to Quito to work and trade. The new town of Quito has a much more modern feel to it, with high-rise buildings, shopping malls, etc. and the people here are more cosmopolitan – as in any other big city. What I like about Quito is that even though it is still a huge capital city which sprawls north to south along the Andes, it can still have a small town feel – I often bump into friends when I am out for a coffee or in the park. What I don’t like about Quito is the traffic – it can be chaotic!
6.Because I have read about you and your work, I know that in addition to writing travel blogs, you are a part of many ventures. So can you please tell us something about your interesting endeavors?
Since moving to Ecuador I have got married and now have an 8 year old daughter which is a venture in itself! As a family we like to explore Quito and the surrounding areas of Ecuador – maybe kite flying in the local park an exhibition in the historical centre or a live jazz event in the old town. We also like to escape from the city – you don’t need to go far from Quito to be in another world, just travelling a couple of hours in different directions you can be in the cloud forest, or in the foothills of a snow-capped volcano, or in some natural Andean hot springs or a traditional indigenous market town – the cultural diversity is here is huge. Since I moved to Ecuador I have always worked in tourism, I managed a hotel (Café Cultura), then a group of hotels (Exclusive Hotels & Haciendas of Ecuador) and now have my own business (Original Ecuador) selling walking and hiking tours around the country. It is a passion of mine and I am really lucky that I can work in this area too. Recently I have started working with a top local adventure clothing store in Quito. We are taking the young people who work in their shops out into the Andes on hiking trips a couple of times a month which is very fulfilling, some of these youngsters have never been out of the city even though they have lived in Ecuador all their lives, so it is an amazing learning experience for them.
7.Original Ecuador – This is the name of the private travel agency that you run in Ecuador. Can you tell us more about your institution? It genre of work and the response from tourists?
I set up Original Ecuador around 18 months ago. We are a small tour operator based in Quito, the company is owned by myself and my very good friend Veronica (Veronica is originally from Quito). We sell and operate tours around all of Ecuador with a focus on walking and hiking. So people who are interested in an active holiday in Ecuador come to us. We take them around all the best bits of the country and during the tour they not only visit the attractions of the area, for example the Inca ruins in the south of Ecuador at Ingapirca, but also hike in that area too. We have had a great response from our clients. They love Ecuador as a country, the variety of places to visit in such a small area and the cultural variety are added attractions and we love sharing it with them.
8.Would you like to share any special experience of your more than 10 years stay in Ecuador?
There are so many experiences to share. Travelling and living in a new country is an eye-opening experience which broadens your horizons beyond belief. Sharing and learning from different cultures is such a fulfilling experience if you are prepared to embrace it. One of my lasting memories of my early days in Ecuador was when I first decided to stay for 6 months and volunteer on a project in the cloud forest called Santa Lucia Cloud Forest Reserve. I was welcomed at the project as one of the family, living in a close knit community with people who were so friendly and kind. At that time I could barely speak Spanish so it was a huge challenge communicating with the families I lived with, but they were hugely supportive. I have always been impressed by their passion to develop a sustainable tourism project on their land to create an income for themselves without destroying the hugely diverse and threatened forests that they own. I still return to the project when I can to visit and am always greeted as one of the family.
9.Quito undoubtedly is one of the most beautiful world heritage sites. But when we talk about Ecuador as a whole, it’s still a developing nation. Do you think this acts as a repelling agent for tourists? How can the situation be improved?
In my opinion, if you are prepared to travel then you need to be prepared to embrace the country you travel too – both the good and the bad of that country. Crime in the cities and poverty are two things which stick out in my mind, when I think about the things that I have had to learn to live alongside while living in Ecuador. There are many different types of tourists and I would say that Ecuador is a more ‘adventurous’ destination and in my experience those that come to Ecuador are prepared to accept it as it is. They embrace the craziness of Quito which can be extremely busy with a lot of traffic and they marvel at the simplicity of the lifestyle of people out of Quito in the Andes.The solutions are not simple, they are not quick. They have to come from the people who run the country – improved and wide spread access to education, more work opportunities, more investment in the country. A couple of things which have been improved drastically in the last few years in Ecuador are access to a social health care system and the road infrastructure. So change and improvement is possible and I definitely feel that it is moving in the right direction.
2. The Getty Institution
The Getty Institute is a private, non-profit institution that works internationally to advance conservation practice through research, education, applied field work, and the dissemination of knowledge. Acting as a trusted source of information and education for the cultural conservation community, the Getty institute is also leader and authoritative voice on issues of cultural heritage conservation. The Institute is housed at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, along with the other programs of the Getty Trust. Its facility at the Center includes scientific laboratories, programmatic and administrative offices, and a conservation information center. In addition, the Institute maintains a laboratory at the Getty Villa, also in Los Angeles.
The reason I tried and contacted this institution was that they have and still continue to commission many conservation projects across the countries. Fortunately one of them was based in Quito. So in order to gain more information about the same, I contacted the institution, though I haven’t received any replies yet.
The following newsletters talk about the aim, objective and the vision of conservation project of the institute in Quito.
1. The Getty conservation institute is a non-profit institute working for to advance conservation through research and field work. So how did this all begin? Please give us a brief history of your institute.
2. What are the aims and objectives of this institute? Also what is your vision that acts as a driving force?
3. Can you tell us in brief about your current projects and in which countries you have been working?
4. I had read a newsletter on your website titled ‘Quito- Preserving a Historic City’. It one a newsletter on one your projects. Please tell more about this project.
5. Among the many problems that city of Quito is facing today, which ones do you think are the main key players in degrading its colonial heritage?
6. This project on Quito was started way back in 1990s, so has it ended now or is it still continuing?
7. How far do you think you have been successful in fulfilling the goals of this amazing project?
8. Along with the ‘conserving Quito project’, you came up with many supplementary activities to promote rehabilitation and maintenance of cultural heritage in Quito. Please tell us more about them.
9. Are the Ecuadorian government and international organisations like the UN providing you any kind of help (financial and otherwise). If yes, how useful this help has been to you?
10. A sense of awareness among the general public about their heritage can work wonders in conservation. How far do u think it’s true?
3. Ministry of Tourism, Ecuador
The 3rd institution that I tried and contacted was the Tourism Ministry of Ecuador. The tourism ministry, over the years has made relentless efforts in order to boost tourism in Ecuador and thus contribute to the national economy. They have given special attention to the World Heritage Site of Quito, and the results are visible as well (The ministry is making sincere efforts to make Quito one of 7 wonder cities of the world). The reason I contacted this esteemed institution was that they were the only authentic source that could provide me with exact statistics about the tourism growth in Quito, programs undertaken by the government to boost tourism, etc. Reply is awaited.
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1. Being the tourism ministry of Ecuador, it’s just not Quito but you need to look at all major tourist destinations of the country. So which place is Ecuador according to you, is the most visited by tourists?
2. Because you are bound to maintain official statistics, can I please know what type of tourists does Quito attract? Is it tourists from the East of from the US?
3. According to the latest statistics given on your official site, the tourist growth rate in Quito is 16% this year. This is fairly less as compared to other cities of the world. Though Quito is world famous heritage site, Ecuador is still not a developed nation. Do you think the image of an under developed nation acts a repelling agent for tourists?
4. What is the best time to visit Quito? What is the tourist season in Quito, if I put it this way.
5. What are the elaborate arrangements that you make for providing proper facility to the tourists?
6. Tell us something about your National Tourism Program.
7. What according to you is the most special and unique thing about Ecuador that attracts tourists from all across the world?
8. Congratulations to you as Quito has become one of the 21 finalists of the ‘ New 7 Wonder Cities’ of the world. How well is your ‘Vote for Quito’ Campaign going? What is the response?
9. Earthquakes, traffic etc. Quito faces a lot of problems. What are the special efforts taken by the government to tackle these issues?
10. We know Quito has it all. Quito is already a World Heritage Site but what are the other famous tourist destinations in Ecuador that you think have the potential to gain such an honor?