One of the world’s top tourism leaders visited Colombia Thursday and confirmed that the nation has changed drastically and that its new goal to attract four million visitors a year is both realistic and deserving.
The esteemed Secretary General of the World Tourism Organization (OMT) Taleb Rifai was invited by Colombia’s Minister of Commerce, Industry, and Tourism Sergio Diaz-Granados to Bogota to participate in the city’s fourth annual Tourism Conference.
In an interview with economic magazine Portafolio, Rifai said Colombia “is a case that we are showing internationally, because it comes from a very difficult situation and changed in the last 10 years to become an attractive destination. It wasn’t easy, but we believe that to have four million tourists is a realistic goal that the country deserves.”
The tourism expert said that they key for Colombia to strengthen its appeal to tourists is to continue promoting the cultural and geographical riches found throughout the nation, and contrast the bad news about Colombia with news that highlights the country’s progress and growth.
He said that this would help change Colombia’s reputation abroad and possibly enable the nation to distance itself of the infamous travel warnings put out by embassies from around the world.
He went on to describe the country as having “many positive aspects; there are good partnerships between the public and private sector, it has improved air connectivity and has natural diversity, there aren’t many countries that have the Atlantic, the Pacific, mountains, jungle, beaches, and different cultures all in the same territory.”
Although he admitted that Central America and the Caribbean are suffering as a result of the weak performance of North America’s economy, he asserted that “countries such as Colombia, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil are going well and we expect the trend to continue.”
He concluded that “Colombia is going in the right direction and probably all of its efforts that have been made in the past will be rewarded.”
On his visit to Colombia’s capital, Rifai was also able to visit the newly renovated Salt Cathedral in Zipaquira, Bogota’s astounding Museum of Gold, and chat to students studying hospitality and tourism at the Universidad Externado de Colombia.