Tourism has been expected to be the first beneficiary of the new free trade agreement (FTA), ratified October 12, between Colombia and the United States.
Speaking on the impact of the agreement, Vice Minister for Tourism Oscar Rueda Garcia told Colombian media that “in the implementation phase, we await the arrival of a large influx of important visitors from that country [U.S.].”
The amount of travelers from the U.S. has been rising in recent years. In 2009, the arrival of travelers grew by 19% to nearly 315,000 visitors. By the end of 2010, there was an 11% increase for a total of just under 350,000.
“Colombia has been preparing for the opportunities now open to the FTA,” Garcia added.
In Bogota, the preparations include the recent opening of 2,300 hotel rooms, and an additional 770 are scheduled to open this year. Nineteen thousand new rooms are expected to be added by 2014 as the capital prepares for the tourism boom.
With the signing of “Open Skies,” which took place in May, the number of flights and airlines operating out of Colombia is expected to sharply increase beginning in January.
Negotiations between the U.S. and Colombia over the trade deal, known then as the Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CPTA), began in 2004. Former U.S. President George Bush and then-Colombian President Alvaro Uribe signed the pact in November 2006, where it remained deadlocked until its ratification last Wednesday.