Ecuador’s popular destinations, such as the Amazon, the Andes and the Galapagos Islands, are open for tourism despite April 16’s deadly magnitude 7.8 earthquake and subsequent aftershocks, the country’s Ministry of Tourism announced Thursday.
The tourist areas are unaffected, and the international airport and city services in the capital, Quito, which felt the quake, remain fully operational and ready for travelers, officials said.
“We are relieved to be in such good condition, but our hearts go out to our fellow citizens at this time,” Quito Mayor Mauricio Rodas Espinel said in a statement. “The best way to assist in the recovery and rebuilding efforts is to embrace foreign visitors.”
The quake hit in the southwestern coastal area of Manabí, about 250 miles from Quito. The death toll now stands at more than 580 people.
Martha Honey of the Washington-based Center for Responsible Tourism said U.S. travelers shouldn’t cancel their vacation plans if they want to see the country -- and help Ecuador.
“This is a case where tourism is extremely important to the country,” she said. Of course, you should steer clear of areas near the quake’s epicenter, where damage and destruction is greatest and where you would just be in the way, Honey said.
Jim Lutz, founder and president of Vaya Adventures, said his company hasn’t had any cancellations and is continuing to operate its tours.
“If people start canceling their trips to unaffected areas, it will in a sense be kicking the country while it’s down,” he wrote by email.
Check updates (in Spanish) about conditions in Ecuador at the country’s Ministry of Tourism.
Americans who continue with their trips to Ecuador should register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program at travel.state.gov to receive updates about conditions. The program also allows the U.S. Embassy to contact you in an emergency.