By adventurers and incentive winners, Ecuador is known for the famed Galapagos Island. But this beautiful, diverse country is also one of the smaller South American nations (Chile is another) with three distinct environments: Amazonian jungle, Andean mountains and Pacific Ocean coastline. Ecuador sits on the Equator and borders with Brazil, Colombia and Peru. For business, its most important cities are Quito, its Andean capital; Guayaquil, its largest city; and Cuenca, which is perhaps the most cultural and beautiful. The country has recently decided to adopt the U.S. dollar as its currency, which is sure to delight those Ecuador event venues with their eyes on the U.S. overseas meetings market.
Quito's international airport is Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO), which has direct access to Atlanta, Houston and Miami (note that a new, larger airport opens in the Quito district of Tababela later in 2012). Access to Guayaquil is through Jose Joaquin de Olmedo International Airport (GYE); it has fewer American carriers serving it but more Latin American ones from U.S. cities, thus it remains the preferred portal from North America.
Convention venues in Ecuador begin with Quito's Colonial-style Eugenio Espejo Convention Center, which has space for up to 300 persons in several halls, attractive function spaces and lobbies and even a chapel, while Guayaquil's center of meetings operations—and the country's— is the Guayaquil Convention Center, also known as ExpoGuayaquil, which is a modern building for up to 4,500 persons.
Hotel venues in Ecuador are up to international standards; those with meeting space in Quito include the 255-room Hilton Colon Quito, which has 4,500 square feet of meeting space, and the 241-room JW Marriott, which has 32 meeting rooms. In Guayaquil, choices include the 294-room Hilton Colon Guayaquil, with 40,000 square feet of meeting space; the 263-room Oro Verde Guayaquil, which has 23,000 square feet of meeting space, including a ballroom for 1,200 persons; and the 182-room Grand Hotel Guayaquil, which shares an entire block with the city's cathedral and has six meeting rooms, a small conference center and a large patio. The best choice in Cuenca is Oro Verde Cuenca, sibling to Guayaquil's, which has 77 guest rooms and meeting space for up to 300 persons.
Social functions in this country's Colonial buildings will provide the best memories. Possibilities in Quito include the Itchimbia Cultural Center (high on a hill, so at this altitude takes things slow and acclimatize), which boasts both modern and Colonial architecture and has space for 2,100 persons; San Francisco Church & Convent, reputedly the largest church in South America, which has a history dating to 1536, gave birth to the city's art heritage and has space for events for up to 2,600 persons; and Sucre National Theater, which was built in the 1880s and has room for 776 persons. Guayaquil has the Museo Antropologico y de Arte Contemporaneo, known as MAAC, which has numerous spaces, including a 400-seat theater, while in Cuenca, there is the Barrancos Panama Hat Museum (Panama hats actually come from Ecuador, not Panama), which can put on small events and, obviously, can provide wonderful souvenirs.
Restaurants with group space in Quito include the celebrated Zazu, which has second-floor, private dining rooms; Los Troncos Steak House, for Argentine steaks and space for 120 persons, and Cafe Sibari, situated in a cultural center in the historic district. In Guayaquil (on the coast, try Ecuador's excellent seafood and ceviche, there is Lo Nuestro, while Cuenca has La Parrillada for more steak.