With political stability improving and economy growth at seven percent, Colombia is now focusing on tourism to boost its economy, pushing an image of passionate people and unique tourism sites.Colombia has already attracted 781,000 tourists from January to September 2007, representing an increase of 14.2 percent compared to the same period last year, under the tourism and investment brand “Colombia is passion.”
The country is aiming for 1.3 million by the end of the year by promoting its regions with a combination of historical cities, adventure and ecotourism.
“The country is outside the points of normal tourism, so we are focusing on certain elements,” the minister of industry, commerce and tourism, Luis Guillermo Plata told reporters at the beginning of the UNWTO general assembly in Cartagena, Colombia.
When asked about combating the country’s image of cocaine dealing and insecurity for tourism. Plata explained that the country was improving. “Security is a reality to bring tourists in…we know that there are areas where tourism is not safe, and we will not promote these areas until they are,” he explained.
In 2006 a total of 1.05 million visited Colombia compared to 567,000 in 2002, according to figures from the government’s agency for export and investment promotion, Proexport.
Hotel investments are also on the rise. Salvadore’s hotel chain Real Hotels & Resorts will operate the Marriott franchise in Colombia and will open two hotels in Bogota in 2009, adding 503 rooms to the city’s supply.
Hilton Hotels is building a $50 million hotel in the capital that will open in 2009, adding 245 rooms to Bogota’s financial district. Spanish hotel chain NH Hoteles will also open in the same year.
GHL, a Colombian firm that operates franchises of Starwood is spending $100 million in the next two years to build seven hotels targeting tourists and businessmen, including one in Cartagena, as well as Cali, Barranquilla, Medellin and Villavicencio.