Despite pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into infrastructure and a global marketing campaign, Colombia is likely to miss its ambitious target of four million foreign visitors in 2010, the country’s National Association of Financial Institutions (ANIF) said Wednesday.
According to ANIF, 1,353,700 foreign tourists visited Colombia in 2009, and a similar number are expected in 2010. The goal of four million tourists this year was set in 2006.
“While the number of visitors [in 2009] did grow 10.7% compared to 2008, the momentum in recent years has been insufficient to turn Colombia into the fifth most touristic country in Latin America,” said Sergio Clavijo, ANIF’s director.
According to Colombia’s Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Tourism, only 2.8 million foreign tourists are expected to visit Colombia in 2010.
Colombia’s deputy minister of tourism, Oscar Rueda, who was in charge of setting the goal of four million, blamed the failure to reach the target on external factors.
“This was an ambitious goal, but what we didn’t take into account in 2006 was the reduction in traffic across our borders, the difficulties with Ecuador and Venezuela have been decisive,” Rueda explained.
The president of Colombia’s Association of Hotels (Cotelco), Jaime Alberto Cabal, cites different figures for 2008, claiming that Colombia actually received 2,494,000 foreign tourists.
Cabal said he is very happy with this number, despite not meeting the goal, “To have arrived at this number is extremely interesting, if we take into account that eight years ago only a million tourists came to Colombia.”
Colombia’s next government should continue to invest significant resources into its tourism industry, Cabal said.
Colombia’s investment in tourism promotion climbed from about $2 million in 2006 to $25 million in 2009, much of which was dedicated to advertising campaigns and supporting the implementation of infrastructure projects across the country.
“About $5 million was invested in the ‘Colombia is Passion‘ campaign, and another $2 million in the ‘Vive Colombia viaja por ella‘ campaign. We are now investing about $2 million into the ‘Vive Colombia el pais que llevas en el corazon‘ campaign, and lastly, the campaign that was done on CNN, ‘The only risk is wanting to stay‘ is more than $1 million,” Rueda explained.
According to the ministry, the number of tourists from the United States grew the most, climbing 19.1% between 2008 and 2009. Following the U.S. were Peru with a 17.2% increase, Spain (11.7%), and Ecuador (9%).
The increased number of visitors helped the tourism sector grow to become Colombia’s third largest “export,” bringing the country $2.6 billion in 2009, behind the $3.5 billion from coal and $5 billion from oil.
In 2009, Colombia was ranked 72 out of 133 countries globally in terms of tourism, and 15 out of 26 in the Americas, according to the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index.
According to ANIF’s director, Sergio Clavijo, Colombia’s low ranking stems from its “many deficiencies related its road, seaport, airport and railway infrastructure.”