Trade Forum Features

Building sustainable tourism from endless natural beauty

3 July 2013
ITC News
Realizing the potential of Colombia’s tourism industry with support from the government, the private sector and local communities

Colombia is now one of the fastest growing economies in South America. Despite the headwinds in the global economy, in 2012 it achieved a growth rate of 5.3%, and the Economist Intelligence Unit has placed the country on the list of the most attractive emerging markets, the so-called CIVETS (Colombia, Indonesia, Viet Nam, Egypt, Turkey, South Africa). Colombia’s reputation as a dangerous place is also disappearing rapidly as the security situation continues to improve. The country is now considered to have a safe and stable economy in which to do business. It is also a place that foreign tourists are now realizing should be on their list of must-see destinations.

Colombia’s tourism industry is thriving partly because of the commitment of the Government, which has recognized the sector’s importance to economic development. Local communities have been involved in the process of developing the country’s tourism industry, and entrepreneurs have been encouraged to improve quality standards, the level of services and infrastructure to make Colombia´s natural and culture heritage an unforgettable experience for visitors.

A variety of factors have also helped the tourism industry’s expansion, including educational programmes to enhance the role of local communities. For visitors, getting access to the country has become easier with nearly 900 international flights every week. Across the country, the private sector realized the potential of the industry and is now supporting the development of tourism – even if it is not their core business – and has also recognized the impact of the industry on the country’s economy. In fact, the World Travel and Tourism Council estimates that in 2012 tourism contributed to more than 5% of Colombia’s GDP, and accounted for more than 400,000 jobs. While these figures are small compared to many other countries, Colombia’s tourism industry is growing at nearly 5% each year.

And there are many reasons for Colombia’s tourism industry to continue to grow. It is a spectacular country with abundant destinations for visitors: it has the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It has a rainforest in the south, the Orinoco River in the east, along with the dramatic Andes mountain range. Colombia is ranked as the second most diverse country in the world in terms of flora and fauna, thanks to its abundant tropical environment. But Colombia’s cities are also a great draw for tourists, from the vibrant capital Bogota, to Medellín – named among the most innovative city in the world, to Cali – the Salsa capital of the world, and Barranquilla – the home of Colombia’s famous Carnival.

And do not forget the country’s most wellknown export: visitors can learn all there is to know about producing Colombian coffee, considered to be among the best coffee in the world.

But getting the tourists to Colombia requires a constant effort from both the private and the public sector. And this is why for several years Avia Export has been working with the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism to provide a framework for the tourism sector. In a joint public-private effort, Avia Export organizes and promotes a country that, despite its beauty and endless natural and cultural resources, still has a long way to go to unlock its potential and position itself as a world-class destination, and as such ensure its economic, environmental and social sustainability. But surely – and steadily – Colombia is getting there.