Five Star Luxury in Ecuador

19/Mayo/2011 | 13:37


Ecuador, with its geographic richness and exotic appeal, is an exclusive destination for many travelers who demand exclusive accommodations, of which, there seems to be no shortage these days. 

Just in the past few years luxury has become more closely associated with Ecuador due to the increasing presence of the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences (AAHS), better known by the key words, Star Diamond.

In recent years AAHS,  an association of some of the most exclusive and luxurious destinations in the world, has turned their attention to Ecuador, awarding their coveted Star Diamond plaque to two hotels and half a dozen restaurants – a prestige enjoyed by less than 500 locations worldwide.

Defining Luxury

Recently, we invited Karen Dixon, International General Manager of AAHS, to sit down at Quito's Café Cultura Hotel to talk about luxury tourism, hospitality, and the Star Diamond program.   We began by asking what does luxury tourism mean?

Dixon made it clear that luxury is not equated with a high price tag, but rather with impeccable service.  "It is about making the guest happy and exceeding their expectations.  Since the properties that we award are some of the most prestigious in the world, we have to qualify a hotel from the eyes of the most demanding consumer, someone for whom service is their biggest concern." 

But she admits the definition of luxury is evolving and broadening to consider not just service and amenities but the  overall experience of a hotel or restaurant which can be  unique and original.

"I think people are becoming more interested in having a more memorable, authentic, unique experience...people are saying, what is important to me is some unique can interact with nature or the city and yet feel the authenticity of place. That is now becoming prized."

A Marketing Tool

But what is prized, also has a price.  Though the prestigious Five Star Diamond Awards are based on merit, they are not free to use.  Those who receive the Star Diamond Award can proudly display the plaque on their wall but they pay a fee in order to use the logo and to be listed in the Star Diamond Directory.

"The charge comes down to the commercial aspect.  It really does drive people to the sites and promote location and there is a value in that." 

Star Diamond is a marketing tool, but AAHS is mindful that the value comes in it's exclusivity.  Dixon says, "The award only has as much credibility as who is a part of it and who has been recognized." 

So how do hotels and restaurants receive the award?  Besides applications, Dixon says  "The Academy continually receives recommendations of their favorite hotels and restaurants from our world travelers, many of whom love traveling in South America and in particular, Ecuador."

Five Star Ecuador

Ecuador holds a special place in South America for AAHS. It is the country with the most award recipients on the continent.  It's northern neighbor, Colombia, has four while Peru, to the south, has three.  And despite the international recognition of Peruvian Cuisine, not one restaurant in Peru is a Star Diamond Award winner (though two chefs and one cooking school have been recognized).   Ecuador, in turn, has six Star Diamond restaurants – four in Quito and two in Guayaquil.

Dixon attributes the success of Ecuadorean restaurants to the owners – smart people who have international experience and training in service.  "You have a lot of international people in Ecuador.  They bring perspective, a different level.  That, mixed with the local sprit, has been a huge plus."

In Peru, Dixon says “Its all about the food."  So far they lack the service to bring themselves up to the Star Diamond level.   Regarding the  Ecuadorean establishments she says, "These restaurants could be in any city in the world." 

In addition to the restaurants, two hotels have received the Five Star Diamond Award in Ecuador.  Hotel Le Parc, a boutique hotel in Quito, is described by Dixon as chic and international.  "Le Parc has positioned themselves uniquely in the market.  They are very involved in community events here that are about fine tastes and excellence."

Casa Ceibo, also a boutique hotel, is a Star Diamond winner in a category of its own and would seem to fit the emerging definition of luxury with its authenticity of place.

Located on the coast of Ecuador, Casa Ceibo is not a beach resort, but a luxurious getaway tucked into the estuary of Bahia de Caraquez. It is also the first hotel in South America to receive the AAHS Star Diamond Green Award, recognized not only for luxury and service, but for it's commitment to sustainability. 

Beyond Star Diamond

Though Dixon and the AAHS are authoritative voices in the luxury tourism industry, to limit luxurious experience strictly to Star Diamond Award winners would be unfair, to say the least. 

We conducted our interview with Dixon from the plush furniture of the Café Cultura lounge, a rustic boutique hotel in the Mariscal District of Quito.  Though it is not a Star Diamond hotel, it has an unmistakable, exclusive charm. 

Café Cultura is part of a self-organized group of high-end hotels called the Exclusive Hotels and Haciendas of Ecuador (, each of which meets self-regulating standards and many have independent certifications from outside entities, particularly relating to sustainability.

Ecuador is also home to large internationally recognized hotel chains such as Swissotel, Marriott, and Sheraton.  But some of the truly luxurious experiences in Ecuador are to be found in the hotels which offer a slice of all that is uniquely Ecuador.

The travel website offers a list of a dozen properties throughout the country which are renowned for their location, service, and amenities.   Places like Mansion Alcazar Boutique Hotel in Cuenca, La Mirage Spa and Hotel in Cotacachi, and Hacienda Zuleta - one of Ecuador oldest and most famous hacienda ranches -  are considered  high-end destinations catering to those with luxurious taste.

When asked about other properties and who might be the next Star Diamond recipient, Dixon is extremely tight lipped.  She has expressed excitement for locations with a more authentic, sense of place, such as a jungle lodge or a hacienda.

Though most of Ecuador's great resorts and hotels may never receive the Star Diamond plaque, AAHS has gone far to put Ecuador on the map as a luxury destination.

Archivado en | Miami Herald  | Tourism 

Tags : Guayaquil  Ecuador Tourism  Quito