The Colombian tourism department plans to increase tourism by improving airline infrastructure, developing the cruise industry, limiting visa restrictions, and improving road travel.
The department has outlined its main aims between now and 2014, which include improving infrastructure and air connections, and increasing annual numbers of tourists visiting Colombia to four million.
According to official figures, the first 9 months of this year saw a 10% increase in visitors on the same period last year, including a significant increase in numbers of Europeans, and visitors from East Asia and the Pacific.
In an interview with newspaper El Espectador, Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism Sergio Diaz-Granados acknowledged the challenges of hitting the proposed targets, and outlined his ministry’s plans for attracting more tourists to Colombia:
According to Diaz-Granados, there is a high demand of airlines wishing to extend their operations to Colombia, with U.S. airlines having concrete plans to extend services in 2013 as part of the Open Skies Agreement. “We could establish connections to places like Texas, Georgia and Carolina, which historically we have not had flights to”, says the minister.
PACIFIC CRUISE ROUTES
Although Cartagena is an established cruise destination, with 390,000 passengers arriving each year, and other Caribbean ports such as San Andres and Santa Marta receive ships, the government wants to extend this to the Pacific ports. According to Diaz-Granados; “The whole coast from Chile to Canada has cruises. We do not. The goal is to develop an industry, […] to develop the eco-tourism potential of our Pacific”.
VISAS AND IMMIGRATION
Diaz-Granados notes that visa and immigration requirements continue to improve for those visiting Colombia, with both the Korean and Jamaican governments eliminated visa requirements for those traveling to the country. Under the Pacific Alliance, Colombia is currently working with Mexico to eliminate visa requirements for its citizens.
By August 2012, Colombia hopes to have developed 80,000 sq feet of airport infrastructure, says Diaz-Granados, adding; “They are very necessary at this time, when the major airlines in the world want to come to Colombia, but cannot even find a parking place”. The main focuses will be a new international terminal in Bogota’s Eldorado Airport, to be delivered in 2012, and remodeling Cartagena airport to be ready in 2013.
Lastly, Diaz-Granados highlighted road tourism as an important area for development, stated that visitors traveling by road from Venezuela and Ecuador were of most interest. However, the minister acknowledged the difficulty of selling road travel in Colombia, given the media attention the bad condition of the road system gets — particularly during rainy season — and described the national highways as “a big headache”. He outlined plans for improving communication and access to information in this regard, such as telling travelers the best routes to take. The minister described the main challenges as “infrastructure, and reaching agreements with transport companies”.