Located at the gateway to South America, Colombia is flanked by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and has five altitudinal layers that enable crop growth and exotic fruits year-round. Its 49 million inhabitants see tourism as a great opportunity to drive the economy: it is the second most attractive industry for attracting foreign revenue, after oil and its derivatives. It beats coal, coffee, flowers, and bananas, products for which the country is world-renowned.
The official figures state that 6.5 million international travelers came to Colombia in 2017. That is 28.2% more than in 2016, which means that the total number grew over four times the world average and more than nine times the average for the Americas. To welcome travelers, more than 200 hotels were built over the last decade, with some 48,700 rooms opening their doors.
The president of Colombia, Iván Duque, is committed to making tourism key to the country's economy, a sector that contributed US $11.9 billion to the country over the last 10 years by means of foreign investment and which is a unique opportunity for those wanting to invest in infrastructure and services. "Colombia’s future lies in tourism. As such, we must acknowledge and work toward that. I want tourism to become Colombia's new oil, to become the country's largest money maker," he stated.
With this goal in mind, the tourism industry is expected to generate nearly US $6 billion in foreign revenue, along with 68,000 jobs by promoting the products and travelers that spend the most, advising tourism entrepreneurs, providing more training with world-class events, and fostering the arrival of new airlines and cruise lines.
These efforts enhance the two main tourism segments that Colombia offers:
On the one hand, conference tourism that includes experiences such as fairs, SMERF events (social, military, educational, religious, and fraternal), incentive trips, and niche conventions such as pharmaceutical, agribusiness, services, and mass consumption. This also includes cultural, sporting, and musical events with local and international artists.
And on the other hand, there is leisure travel, which also has a broad portfolio of experiences in Colombia opportunities for investment in the offering of sun and sand, along with promoting cultural events and cities, heritage destinations, and gastronomy. Colombia also has nature tourism offerings, where niche experiences can be had such as bird and whale watching, sport fishing, two-wheeled tourism, ecotourism, and others.
In the second quarter of 2018, US $5,797 direct foreign investment entered Colombia—15% more than the same period in 2017.