Ecuador After the Earthquake

Posted on Friday, Jun 24th, 2016
Guayaquil Ecuador

On Saturday, April 16th, the small country of Ecuador was struck by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake along its Western coast. The shakes and aftershocks could be felt over 400 km away in the nation’s capital of Quito. The entire Manabi province saw widespread damage. In the country’s most populated city of Guayaquil, a bridge collapsed and the airport was shuttered due to mass telecommunication interruptions. To date, casualties are at 661, with more than 27,000 injuries reported. Ecuador is often characterized as having “four worlds in one,” due to its immense biodiversity. But in the days that followed, one country came together in the face of a devastating disaster.

As an adventure consultant specializing in Ecuador and the Galapagos islands, I felt practical worry for a professional destination and the potential impact on operations. But I felt mourning for the spirit of a country I have fallen in love with. I was fortunate enough to spend a good amount of time in Ecuador in the spring and summer of 2015. I toured the Galapagos Islands and Quito, the Amazon and the Otavalo region, and more. I brought home so many incredible memories. But the lasting impression I’ll never shake is the immense pride Ecuadorians have for their tiny but spectacular country.

I spent my first full day in Ecuador on a city tour with a guide who was gentle and quiet and deeply religious. As he led me up the stony hills, through the alleys and down the steps of the most well-preserved historical city center on Earth, I was enchanted. So struck was I by the scene of a modern, bustling city set against the backdrop of the commanding Pichincha volcano. The pride was evident with each knowledgeable missive on a specific city center, and with each reverent bow at the entrance to every single mind-blowingly beautiful, gold-encrusted religious edifice.

Once I arrived to the islands, I found the same deep pride from every national park guide and support staff encountered. Ecuador was the first and so far only country to recognize the rights of nature in its own constitution. The first country to establish a bill of rights for the ocean, trees and animals. So it’s no wonder that every citizen I encountered had such a sense of honor for their country, for its incredible culture and amazing scenery, and for each and every volcano, every tree and every giant tortoise. They’ve written it into the legal fabric of their country. The constitutional amendment was proposed in 2007, and ratified by the entire country in 2008. It was a widely supported measure, by a nation who knew the magic of their homeland begins and ends with the natural gifts within it.

The outpouring of support following the earthquake was overwhelming. Guests from years passed reached out to inquire about the country, about specific locations they remembered, and in many instances, hoped for updates on specific guides or support personnel who made an impression on them. Our partner company in Quito also experienced a flood of concern and well-wishes. Along with that, of course, were many future guests who were concerned for the company and the potential impact on their own upcoming trips.

We were fortunate enough as a company to have no effect whatsoever on our regular operations. All tours will continue without interruption. Most importantly, all of our staff and support personnel were thankfully unharmed. And now, two months removed from the melee, we continue to encourage travel to Ecuador, especially since the earthquake. The country has spent the last decade investing in and strengthening their tourism industry, which is currently their third largest source of revenue after oil and bananas. In 2015, they made history with their “All You Need is Ecuador” Super Bowl ad campaign. The economy of this country depends on their ability to share it with the rest of the world. The mayor of Quito put it best in the days following the earthquake: “The best way to help Ecuador is to visit Ecuador.” 

You might not have known that all you need is Ecuador, but right now it is certain that Ecuador needs all of you.