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Selling Colombia

February 14, 2011 By: Joe Pike Travel Agent


Cartagena’s Old City continues to draw tourists, but visitors also appreciate the city’s new modern hotels.


New developments on the tourism front are gathering momentum.

Roughly four years after its unofficial tourism rebirth—when it hosted TravelMart LatinAmerica—Colombia is going stronger than ever, with new hotels, cruises and attractions popping up on a monthly basis.

The number of foreign visitors to the country has tripled over the past six years. In 2009, while tourism worldwide fell 4 percent, in Colombia it increased 10.7 percent. Similarly, the number of international flights has doubled since 2000.

Here are some of the latest developments you should know before sending your clients off to Colombia:

Hotel Growth

An encouraging picture of Colombia’s recovering hotel business emerged on the opening day of the South American Hotel & Tourism Investment Conference (SAHIC) in September.



A King guest room at JW Marriott Hotel Bogota
A King guest room at the recently opened JW Marriott Hotel Bogota




Agent Advice

Cartagena is booming and San Andres is full all year round. Santa Marta, Bogota and Medellin are all becoming major tourist destinations again,” says Daniel Taramona of Tara Tours in Miami. “And most important is that if you visit Colombia today, it is very safe. We are sending people every day and they enjoy their stay. I would suggest travel agents take a fam trip to Colombia and see for themselves what a great buy this country is today, and that the Colombian people are very friendly and make you feel welcome.”


Steve Rushmore, president and founder of HVS Global Hospitality Services, noted that the country’s hotel sector has seen a turnaround from the dark days of 2009, with revenues expected to be up 4.3 percent in 2010, and bigger jumps projected at 7.1 percent in 2011 and 8.1 percent in 2012. In Bogota alone, it is forecasted that by 2014 there will be 2,253 new rooms, up from 1,616 new rooms in 2009.

Many of the big names in hospitality are already in place or are about to be. The Marriott brand is represented with the luxurious 264-room JW Marriott Hotel Bogota and the 239-room Bogota Marriott, both opened in the last couple of years. Sonesta’s expansion in South America continued last year with its hotels welcoming visitors in Bogota, Cartagena and Barranquilla.

Hilton plans to open a 245-room hotel early this year. The company currently has the Hilton Cartagena and Embassy Suites Bogota-Rosales and is in initial talks to introduce brands such as Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn and Doubletree to this burgeoning market.

Sheraton announced a project called Ocean Tower, which will include two towers—one with 27 floors for the 256-suite Sheraton Cartagena and the other a 35-story residential building. The towers will rise above the Bocagrande neighborhood. The hotel is expected to open in March 2012.

 Santa Ana shopping mall
The city’s Santa Ana shopping mall

Also in Cartagena, Radisson has taken over the 233-room Ocean Pavilion, a condo/hotel property on the beach. Hotel Melia has also announced it will be building new properties in Bocagrande and Chambacu.

Cruise Update

On January 3, Cartagena de Indias received the Seven Seas Navigator, Island Princess, Celebrity Equinox and Grandeur of the Seas. These ships completed 80 of the 208 arrivals expected in the season (from September to April). Around 10,000 cruise passengers arrived in the city, and were received with the traditional dances of the Barranquilla Carnival and the lively Palenqueras.

An Ecotourist’s Delight

Nature enthusiasts will be amazed at the protected areas awaiting discovery in Colombia. Jungles, once home to government dissidents, are now known for providing refuge to rare birdlife. With the discovery of new species, the country has reinforced its claim as the home to South America’s most diverse bird species. Occupying a mere 0.1 percent of the world’s land, Colombia has 20 percent of the planet’s bird species, 1,867 in all. Six new bird species have been discovered in the last decade, revealing the enormous potential of a biodiversity that is yet to be discovered.

Eco Turs organizes scheduled and private tours to Colombia’s top bird-watching destinations. Their signature Endemics Bonanza, priced at $4,400 for 20 days, guarantees a sighting of 50 endemic birds and up to 650 species.

Colombia Birding has a fully customizable system to design the ideal trip for your clients; they can opt for the regions and/or species that they would like to see. Tours include a professional guide, transport, snacks and, depending on the tour, lodging. 
Colombia Travel Mart 2011

On February 24 and 25, Proexport, the Colombia tourist board, is organizing Colombia Travel Mart 2011, a two-day business meeting between international buyers and Colombian suppliers. At press time, there were 18 confirmed buyers from the U.S., including Avanti Destinations, Brendan Vacations, Continental Journeys and Travel Innovations.

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About the Author

Joe Pike
Joe Pike is Travel Agent's senior editor covering the Caribbean, Bahamas & Bermuda; Hawaii; Central & South America. Previously, Pike was a newspaper reporter for The Asbury Park...

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By Joe Pike | February 14, 2011
If big-name hotels, cruise lines and airlines can’t afford to pass up Colombia, then agents can’t, too.