By Russell Maddicks
Ecuador's Pacific port of Guayaquil - the country's largest city and the main hub for flights to the famed Galapagos Islands - is gearing up for a flood of visitors for the annual International Tourism Fair, FITE 2015, which will be held from 22-25 October.
This is the most important tourism fair in Ecuador and the four pavilions that will be erected for the event in Parque Samanes - the third biggest park in the Americas - are expected to attract some 60,000 visitors over the four days.
FITE is aimed at locals trying to get a good deal for their next holiday, visitors and expatriates seeking inspiration and information about destinations in Ecuador, and tourism professionals and travel firms interested in making new business contacts.
This year, the slogan for the event is "Life is a Journey: Live it at FITE" (La Vida es un Viaje, Vívelo en FITE).
Ecuador's top attractions from the Amazon, Andes, Pacific coast and Galapagos Islands will be represented by regional tourism boards, tour operators, travel agencies, hotels, guesthouses, and jungle lodges.
There will also be music and costumed dancers from the country's many folk festivals to enliven proceedings, and stalls offering a diverse range of Ecuador's traditional culinary dishes and drinks for gastronauts.
If you want to try a coastal ceviche, for example, or a tasty plate of hornado (pork pulled from a whole roasted pig), served up with mote (hominy corn) and llapingachos (fried potato and cheese patties), then FITE is the perfect place to visit.
You can also buy traditional handicrafts from around the country, including high-quality toquilla straw hats - erroneously known as Panama hats - and meet women from the small villages around Cuenca and Montecristi who spend months weaving them.
There will be stalls representing international airlines and tourism boards from 30 countries, including South American neighbours such as Peru, Colombia and Brazil, and far-flung nations like China.
According to Jaime Rull Mayoral, who has been organizing the FITE since 2002, this year there will be a special focus on adventure tourism, including hiking, mountain biking, abseiling, paragliding, bungee jumping, ziplining, and rafting, as well as equestrian and rural tourism options, and beach and water sports.
The four pavilions will be Adventure Tourism, Nautical Tourism and Water Sports, Equestrian and Rural Tourism, and a quiet space dedicated to business meetings, mini-conferences and talks aimed at those in the tourism trade.
During FITE there will also be a two-day Extreme Sports and Adventure Tourism Congress bringing together tour companies, experts, and practitioners of extreme sports. The congress will offer an overview of new products and trends, highlight the importance of good practice and rigorous safety preparation to reduce risk, and stress the importance of sustainable, eco-friendly approaches to minimize the impact on the environment.
Ecuador has experienced a significant increase in tourist numbers over the last five years with over 1.5 million tourist arrivals in 2014 (200,000 more than in 2013), a record that the government predicts will be beaten in 2015.
The country has built up a good reputation among travellers over the last five years due to the number of varied and interesting places that can be visited in a fairly short period.
Ecuador is also considered safe compared to its larger neighbours, has great food, brilliant birdwatching, fascinating colonial cities, good hiking, world-class surf, a historic railway system, and an efficient transport infrastructure that makes it easy to travel around.
Having the dollar as the national currency also makes Ecuador an attractive destination for travellers and expats, as it removes the bother of changing money and helps when transferring funds, budgeting and comparing prices.
Nurturing this tourism boom, the government, through the Tourism Ministry, has invested heavily in a series of award-winning and highly successful international campaigns such as All You Need is Ecuador, which was launched around the world in 2014. The new campaign Feel Again!, looks like it will be just as successful.
For more information about FITE 2015 visit the FITE website or their page on Facebook.
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