ECUADOR (eTN) – Ecuador’s Minister of Tourism has a global perspective on the industry, for he has traveled most of the world in his position as television producer and journalist for acclaimed television programs and has been referred to as the “Oprah Winfrey” of Ecuadorian TV. Minister Ehlers studied jurisprudence at the Central University of Ecuador and television in the Netherlands and the United States. In addition, he studied journalism at Davison College, NC, as a Fulbright Scholar.
Not Just Another Media Personality
Recognized for his personal appeal, Ehlers ran for the office of Ecuadorian President in 1996 and 1998. From 2002-2006, Ehlers was elected as a legislator in the Andean Parliament. He has also held important elected positions, and in January 18, 2007, became the Secretary General of the Andean Community. In 2010, President Rafael Correra appointed Ehlers to lead Ecuador’s’ Ministry of Tourism.
In his administrative position, Ehlers’ mission is to enrich tourism opportunities and increase the number of tourists visiting the country. Although Ecuador’s government has become increasingly involved in private sector operations, Ehlers claims that according to the laws of Ecuador, all tourism projects and activities are treated as private enterprises. “The Ecuadorian government is not directly involved in hotels or airline projects, although it fully supports tourism efforts.”
“The government of Rafael Correa … is promoting tourism as the main export product of the country,” Ehlers states in his current biographical notes. Ehlers travels globally on behalf of Ecuador, promoting touristic investments, and actively seeks the participation of China and other Asian countries, as well as South America in this endeavor.
Ehlers’ office is responsible for establishing tourism policies including:
1. A competitive tourism environment.
2. The promotion of sustainable products and services.
3. Development of destinations with a high level of security.
4. Optimizing tourism projects that will improve the quality of life for the Ecuadorian population.
5. Creating a dynamic value chain.
6. Training tourism employees in the management of sustainable tourism.
7. Understanding the value of the country’s cultural and natural heritage through balanced development.
8. Defending and protecting all areas where tourism activities take place and avoiding activities that negatively impact on the environment.
9. Social tourism will be inclusive so that entertainment and leisure activities are enjoyed by the entire population as a human right and a tool to achieve national integration.
On October 3, 2010, Minister Ehlers announced the implementation of a tourism service and security plan to be implemented in 2011. The program was intended to train hotel front desk employees and taxi workers in safety and security measures, plus provide an enhanced tourism police presence and a toll-free hotline for travelers so they would, “…feel more secure while traveling across the country…” New security measures were also being implemented at airport and other transportation hubs.
The Ecuadorian government is putting US$50 million into tourism development with the objectives of improving economic conditions and preserving the country’s natural resources, including the Galapagos Islands, the Andean highlands, the Amazon basin, and coastal tropical plains. Most current visitors to Ecuador are from Columbia, the United States, Peru, Spain, Argentina, and Chile, with more than half (66.37 percent) arriving by air through Quito and Guayaquil, and approximately one-third (30.47 percent) entering the country by land via Carchi and El Oro. As an economic engine for Ecuador, tourism contributed US$786.5 million to the economy (2010), representing a 16.7 percent increase over 2009.
With the World Bank warning of climate changes likely to affect Ecuador over the coming years, the best idea is to visit the country ASAP before the predicted shortages, ice melts, and other issues mar the current biodiversity of the country.