Thursday, February 14, 2008

U.S. - Colombia's Biggest Tourist Market

Medellin, the city of eternal spring

Colombia's tourism boom to continue...

Bogota – for so long a byword for coke and kidnapping – is stepping out of the grim shadow of the past and striding forward as a Latin American tourism success story of recent years. Increased security and economic growth have combined to encourage a touristic boom, the likes of which has never before been experienced in the northern South American country.

The capital Bogota, the colonial gem of Cartagena and the reborn city of Medellin are the most popular destinations for foreign tourists and Colombia as a whole, according to figures collated by the Banco de la Republica, DAS (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad) and cruise-ship companies.

These sources put the total of foreign tourists that arrived in the country in 2007 at 2,100,000.

If you take into consideration that in 2005 only 830,000 tourists visited Colombia the turnaround in a few short years is staggering.

No less striking is the Colombian government's aim to attract an all time record of four million tourists in the year 2010.

In order to stay on target to reach this lofty goal, 2008 needs to see a further increase of almost 30 per cent on 2006, coaxing in a further 600,000 tourists.

The emphasis has been on diversification and tourism bodies have been marketing newer routes such as the Colombian Amazon, and the coffee region.

Proexport, a Colombian institution aimed at promoting Colombia and improving tourism and foreign investment, has set about identifying the kind of tourists that Colombia wants to attract.

Angela Maria Claro, sub-director of information for Proexport, makes their aims clear: "We are looking for a certain tourist who stays for a longer duration and spends more money.

Cartagena: Colombia's magical city rebounds

"With this in mind there have been special efforts to woo film directors to use Colombia's plethora of locations fit for movie productions."

Claro cites 2007's Love in the Time of Cholera as an example of what Colombia can deliver on this front.

When asked about the current economic slowdown in the United States, Claro waved away any worries: "Colombia’s growth is well above world growth and the US is a 250 million person market, one which we have barely scratched the surface."

The US remains Colombia's biggest tourist market, apart from neighbouring Ecuador and Venezuela, delivering 235,000 visitors in 2007.

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