Colombia’s national focus on environmental sustainability isn’t just a tourism strategy, it’s national policy. Now officials at ProColombia, the country’s destination marketing agency, are using that mandate as a roadmap to form tourism-rebuilding initiatives following the pandemic’s outbreak.
ProColombia is focusing promotional programs on six regions that showcase the country’s world-leading biodiversity and distinctive cultural attractions and experiences rooted in Colombia’s indigenous music, gastronomy, artistry and historic sites.
“We are committed to a new way of working with the country’s regions to position Colombia as ideal for international travelers by empowering new segments such as nautical, archaeological and community-based tourism,” said Flavia Santoro, president of ProColombia.
Travel to the destination is rebounding strongly following the outbreak, Santoro said, led by visitors from the U.S. Colombia has hosted 172,000 American visitors to date in 2021, a 16.6 percent increase over pandemic-stricken 2020.
“This makes the U.S. the only country with positive numbers of travelers to Colombia between 2020 and 2021,” said Santoro. “Colombia is well-connected to the U.S. and has already recovered more than 60 percent of the [airline] connectivity we had in February of 2020.”
Colombia reopened its borders to international flights on September 21, 2020, after launching a national pandemic recovery plan that includes “the implementation of biosafety parameters for [travelers],” said Santoro.
Since last year, 13 new airline routes between Colombia and the United States have been announced, connecting U.S. cities including Miami, Newark, New York and Orlando with Bogota, Medellin, Cali and Cartagena, Colombia.
Santoro said Colombia’s health and safety measures have enabled travelers to safely return to the country. She said 38 million vaccines have been applied in Colombia, whose population totals 50.4 million residents. “The country has made it easy for travelers to enter [Colombia],” Santoro said.
Indeed, Colombia’s entry process is relatively simple. Visitors are not required to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result to enter the country. Travelers who experience coronavirus symptoms during or 14 days after their inbound flight are required to report it to the local health authorities and isolate immediately.
Colombian COVID infections have declined steadily since July, said ProColombia officials. On September 20 the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) downgraded Colombia’s risk assessment from Level 4 to Level 3. The next day, the Department of State updated its Colombia advisory, downgrading the country from Level 4 to Level 3.
In terms of tourism promotion, Santoro said ProColombia is focusing on six regions of the country. “We are concentrating on attracting tourism that benefits not only travelers, but travel companies, the environment and the community,” Santoro said.
The Greater Colombian Caribbean, described by officials as the land of Nobel Prize-winning Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, features rainforests, snow-capped peaks and desert dunes, and is home to cities including Cartagena, Santa Marta, Barranquilla and San Andres Island.
The Western Andes region is highlighted by Colombia’s coffee route and features mountains, exotic birds and flower-covered valleys in cities including Medellin and Pereira. Described as the center of Colombia’s colonial past and its struggle for liberation, the eastern Andes region is distinguished by soaring mountains and expansive national parks in Bogota, Villa de Leyva and Bucaramanga.
Colombia’s Massif region encompasses paramos, volcanoes and the country’s largest rivers, with accessible evidence of ancient Colombian civilizations in archaeological parks and indigenous communities in the Popayan and Pasto regions. The Colombian Amazon is an immense center of biodiverse rainforests and whitewater rapids.
Described by officials as Colombia’s “best-kept secret,” the country’s Pacific coast features rainforests leading to the ocean where visitors can view humpback whales and sea turtles. The region has a distinctive African heritage maintained by the present-day residents of Cali, Nuquí and on Gorgona Island.
The natural and cultural attractions combine with practical advantages, Santoro said. “Colombia is the most biodiverse country per square meter in the world according to the United Nations,” she said. “We also have connectivity, accessibility, a favorable exchange rate and a culture of service.”