Colombia is a country that has for years been demonized by the media, and that many foreign offices still warn visitors away from. Since 2006, however, this reputation has steadily been changing as more and more tourists have been drawn to the country.
In 2012 Colombia’s Tourism Ministry revealed that the country has seen a 5.3% increase in foreign visitors between January and April this year, compared to the same period in 2011. This builds on sustained growth in tourism over the past 6 years, which has increased by almost 300% since 2006.
This success has been reflected by a campaign launched by the country’s tourism board that stated “Colombia: The Only Risk is Wanting to Stay”, an acknowledgement of the country’s damaged reputation that, at the same time, suggests a new dawn has arrived.
The campaign has also been helped by an influx of Colombia travel agencies that are establishing themselves in the country, as well as online travel guides.
The websites not only offer information that was previously absent online, but also give tourists a platform to discuss their experiences in the country, and demonstrate to curious readers what Colombia, in their opinion, is really like.
Colombia has received a series of accolades in the past two years. New York Times readers rated Colombia as their second favourite destination to visit in 2012, Cartagena and Bogotá were in TripAdvisor’s 25 top places to visit in 2011, and North Colombia was named as one of National Geographic’s best trips of 2012. Elsewhere, President Santos adorned the cover of TIME magazine with the headline ‘The Great Colombian Comeback’.
This has all lead to an increased focus on the tourism industry in Colombia, and many initiatives are soon to be put in place to encourage more. Tourism workers and taxi drivers are soon to be made to learn English in order to ease foreigners into the country, while hotels chains such as Hilton have recently been constructed in the country as a response to the rising occupancy rate (12%) in hotels from 2011 to 2012.
Furthermore, tourism promises to grow along with investment in the country, which has benefited from Fair Trade Agreements with China and the US that have recently been ratified, and one with Europe is set to be confirmed in the coming months.