Loading Map

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Business Casual

Wednesday we had a meeting at Saiananda with the Minister of Tourism for Ecuador, Veronica Sion, for which we all wore our best town clothes in an effort to look respectable for her. It was such an honor to be able to sit down with a government representative and chat in an open, friendly environment. She took all of our comments about cruising in Ecuador, asked us pointed questions, and was very positive about making some important changes to current policies which would make cruising easier here, especially for boats wishing to spend more than six months in the country. The colonel in charge of the bridge project in Bahia attended, and we understand that he would also like to see an opening bridge across the river, so there's still hope for making that change.

Alfredo, the owner of Saiananda, graciously invited the owner of PA to attend the meeting as well. Instead, in a classic maneuver, Tripp worked with his Ecuadorian business partner to arrange his own meeting with Ms. Sion at PA. Except that here the cruising community was not invited to the meeting and was reduced to standing around basically eavesdropping on the officials seated at the table.

We noticed an obvious difference between the earlier bridge meeting at PA and the tourism meeting at Saiananda. We distinctly got the impression (from the way the question and answer session was handled) that the bridge meeting was a carefully orchestrated show to placate cruisers. We weren't really there to be heard, it was just meant to look that way. In complete contrast, the Minister of Tourism engaged us all in a give and take conversation, took notes, and asked us for our input - what a pleasant surprise.

We were very pleased to be invited to attend the meeting at Saiananda where we were served a fabulous vegetarian lunch and received gift bags from the Ministry containing beautiful tourism brochures and a souvenir T-shirt. It was an uplifting and hopeful meeting during which we felt our voices were finally heard.