Journeys // EcuadorNow

A lot influences where we decide to venture on upcoming holidays – landmarks, cuisine, history, personal challenges etc. But where do factors like political conflict, scandal and natural disasters fit in? If you are like most people, if there are a lot of the latter, the former will not be enough for you to consider a potential trip. There are a lot of other places to choose from – right? While there is, your choice to not visit can actually perpetuate the issues and prevent destinations, dependent on tourism, from moving forward.

I don’t tend to let these factors influence my choice on where to visit in the world and am sometimes even oblivious to them. On a recent trip to Ecuador, our local tour guide informed us about her country’s recent slump in visitor numbers due to a string of incidents that happened over the course of the year. The main culprit was the fatal 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 16, 2016, off the northern Pacific coast. While the majority of tourist hotspots like the Andes mountains, the Amazon rainforest and the Galapagos islands were not directly impacted, the numbers continued to dwindle.

What started the decline? Our guide said the murder of two Argentinean female travellers at a popular surfing destination in the February and also where, a couple of months later, two British travellers were raped. Add to that the overall scepticism of travelling to South America due to the Zika virus, the Ministry of Tourism had a problem on their hands. With a newfound dependency on tourism since the early 2000s, Ecuador’s Ministry of Tourism knew they needed a proper response to influence the continued travel to the country. Their response? The creation of a tourism recovery campaign – EcuadorNow.

The idea behind this crowd-sourced campaign is to have those visiting the country share their positive experiences for others to see on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. As the bigger tourist draws were unaffected, it’s a way for them to be showcased by those in their network. It’s also a way to rest peoples safety concerns as well.

“Hey look at me all smiles. I’m at the exotic place you want to be and I’m having a great time. Come – there is nothing to worry about. Experience this amazing country.”

As a digital marketer, I understand the effectiveness of well-executed social media campaigns and appreciate how quickly the community rallied around this appeal for Ecuador. They saw how effective it was for Nepal – who created NepalNow after their devastating 2015 earthquake – and enlisted the guidance of the Nepalese team who initiated the appeal.

Here are some details for how the campaign works:

Helping is relatively easy and is accomplished by simply sharing snaps and stories of your travels as you make your way through the country.

  • Take a selfie holding up the message #IAmInEcuadorNow. Download a printout of the sign here.
  • Share on your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts with the hashtags #EcuadorNOW or #StillStrong
  • Extend the love and post it to the EcuadorNow Facebook page

It’s as simple as that. I’d say it makes sense to include a little blurb so people can get a better understanding of what it is you are doing – but that post will go a long way in changing perception.

We, as global travellers, have the ability to help devastated countries recover. This does not mean you need to pull out your wallet/purse and write a massive check either. We have the ability to influence other’s perceptions through participation in campaigns like EcuadorNow.

The local tours we book, the food we eat, the markets we shop in – all help to boost the local economy as they rebuild their communities. I am in no way saying you should always seek out these destinations or plan your trips around helping others rebuild. BUT if you do find yourself researching locations on your bucket list that have come up against some trouble, don’t discount them as places you can visit later – think about what your visit can do for them now.

For more information on the EcuadorNow initiative be sure to check out their Facebook Page, Twitter @ecuadornow or Instagram @ecuadornow.


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