Colombia’s trade minister said Monday in Madrid that the country is now safer for foreign travelers.
Sergio Diaz-Granados traveled to the Spain, the European nation that sends the most tourists to Colombia, in order to participate in the National Geographic Store’s month-long promotion of Colombian tourism. According to the minister, Colombia is significantly safer than a decade ago, when the government, paramilitary organizations and guerrilla groups were fighting for control of various strategic areas throughout the country.
“We are in a better moment, as the majority of the country is safe with only a few isolated areas with problems, principally related with narcotraffiking,” the minister emphasized.
Granados cited as an example of the growing trend in tourism the number of Spanish visitors to the country every year. According to the minister, between 2001 and 2011 the number of annual flights between the two nations grew from 100 to 990.
Over 3.3 million tourists visted Colombia last year, with the majority coming from the United States and neighboring countries such as Venezuela and Ecuador.
Despite the encouraging numbers, the Colombian minister acknowledged that “we are still below our potential.” One area with a significant potential for growth is eco-tourism, situated primarily in areas outside of the country’s main cities that were often avoided as a result of warnings and negative press.
Another of the major initiatives underway is a remodelling of the Cartagena airport, which the government believes will increase its capacity from 1.3 million to 3.5 million annual visitors.