Welcoming Expats with Hospitality
Ramiro Munoz’s eyes light up when he talks about his guests at The Gran Colombia Suites. “They become friends, like a member of the family. We want them to see the very best of Cuenca and feel comfortable here.”
Ramiro and his staff have the pleasure of working in gorgeous surroundings, in a historic building in the heart of El Centro. The building was constructed by Jose’ Maria Mostesinos in 1924 as the very first hotel in Cuenca. It operated for almost 30 years as the “Patria”. A two-year restoration project completed in 2014 transformed the lovely building into executive suites for discerning travelers who want to stay for fifteen days or more.
The location of the Gran Colombia, right on the corner of Luis Cordero and Gran Colombia, puts guests in the heart of El Centro. Because it is so centrally located, guests can walk to numerous restaurants, museums, and explore the heart of the city easily. Ramiro adds that most of his guests are from the North America or Europe and enjoy the opportunity to stay in a historic location designed with all the modern conveniences.
Expat Ed Lindquist lived at the Gran Colombia for three months last year when he first arrived in Cuenca. He found the spacious suites ideal for setting up a temporary office for his business as well as a welcoming place to begin his new life in Cuenca.
When you enter the Gran Colombia, your eyes will be immediately drawn to the stunning design. Every element has been carefully perfected, from the art on the walls to the soaring atrium. After the bustle of El Centro, the Gran Colombia is remarkably peaceful and quiet. Ramiro shared that every one of the many windows in the building was fitted with special double-paned glass to ensure quiet. There was not one whisper of a car alarm or a barking dog.
Ramiro grew up in a military family. His father was regularly reassigned, so Ramiro learned what it was like to enter a new community. He moved many times as a child and lived in almost every part of Ecuador. Those experiences gave him the ability to make new friends easily as well as a deep respect for those who are relocating. He uses those skills as the General Manager of the Gran Colombia. “When people arrive in Cuenca for the first time, they have so many questions. They want to learn as much as possible so that they can decide if this will be a good home for them. Our job is to give them a safe, calm, and friendly place to stay, and then to answer all the questions we can. We love to share the best our city has to offer.”
The Gran Colombia is a launch pad for many new expats and becomes a forever home for a few. Several of the suites are already reserved for the next year, and two are leased for a five year period. Because each room is spacious, with a kitchen, large sitting areas, high ceilings, and palladium windows, guests don’t feel as if they are in a hotel but a lovely apartment. The one or two bedroom suites are fully furnished and beautifully decorated, so it’s not hard to imagine moving in for a long visit. There is an on-site laundry, fine linens, plenty of hot water, high-speed Internet, DIRECTV and 24-hour security.
When asked why some guests would sign a five-year contract, Ramiro noted that living at the Gran Colombia is easy and safe. People enjoy the comfort of having such a secure location right in El Centro, with English speaking staff and no hassles with paying utilities or furnishing a home. Both of the long-term leases were created for single women who enjoy the community found in the building. People who live here travel together periodically and often gather to explore some of the many outstanding restaurants in El Centro,” says Ramiro. “People can have as much privacy or time together as they wish.”
With 15 suites, Ramiro and his team stay busy providing personal service and meeting the diverse needs of their guests. Occasionally a guest will fall ill. Gran Colombia has an English speaking physician who will provide house calls as well as helps facilitate admission to a local hospital if needed.
A large part of the charm of the Gran Colombia is the warmth of the staff. Freddy Cabezas and Carolina Sotomayor staff the front desk and speak fluent English. When they are not on duty, a security guard keeps watch over the building and the guests. Carolina was the runner-up for Miss Cuenca last year and enjoys being an ambassador for the city. She notes, “Freddy and I are often the first Cuencanos expats meet. It is important for us to help them enjoy our city. It is fun to see them return after a day of site-seeing and hear about their adventures.”
Many of the guests at the Gran Colombia are seeking a new home in Cuenca, so Freddy, Carolina, and Ramiro answer numerous questions about setting up utilities, the locations of stores and banking. They have a great network and enjoy making connections for newcomers. They get involved with everything from finding a great dentist to getting new apartments painted. Ramiro notes that former guests stop by regularly to visit and update the staff about their new apartments and progress in Cuenca. “Most of our guests are here for several weeks to several months. We get to know them well. They become like family, so it makes us happy to celebrate their new life.”
For more information on the Gran Columbia Suites, visit their website at GranColombiaSuites.com.
Ramiro, Freddy, and Carolina are ready to welcome you or your guests!
Lynne Klippel is a best-selling author, ghostwriter and publisher who specializes in non-fiction books and information products. She’s lived in rural Paute since 2012. For more information on her work visit www.SageMountainBooks.com