This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
Last Published: 8/1/2017
Overview
Colombia Travel and Tourism Data
YearTotal VisitorsPercentage Growth
2013748,00024%
2014881,00018%
2015854,000-3%
2016 (estimated) 845,000-1%
2017 (estimated)820,000-3%
Sources: Office of Tourism Industries; International Trade Administration; U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Travel Association; Ministry of Commerce and Tourism

In terms of international travelers to the United States, Colombia ranked thirteen in 2016, with 845,000 travelers, a one percent annual decrease. The slight decline in visitors can be attributed to the relatively weak Colombian peso and weaker consumer spending in 2016, which resulted from a tax reform package that raised the country’s consumption and other taxes. 

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Colombia and the region will lead growth in tourism over the next 10 years. The Travel and Tourism market represents approximately 5.9 percent of Colombia’s economic output and is becoming one of the country’s primary economic engines, ranking just behind the oil sector as a source of foreign exchange. Colombia’s Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism (MinCIT) announced that the country’s tourism revenues reached nearly USD 5.7 billion in 2016, an annual increase of 8.6 percent. The country received more than 2.5 million foreign tourists in 2016, an annual increase of 13 percent. Revenues from tourism have nearly doubled since 2010, according to MinCIT, and the government’s goal is to reach USD six billion in tourism revenues by 2018. The increase in airline routes to Colombia has been a significant contributor to tourism growth. Last year alone the Colombian civil aviation authorities approved 42 new national routes and 20 new international routes for 15 airlines. The latest announcement is by American Airlines which will offer a direct route between Miami and Cartagena starting in December 2017. 

The Colombian Government is making rural development and tourism high priorities for both ensuring that the recently signed peace agreement with the FARC is sustainable and for diversifying the economy away from oil dependence. New opportunities in the tourism sector are emerging for U.S. firms beyond the traditional accommodation of Colombian travelers to the United States. After years of conflict with the FARC, Colombia’s tourism sector has been unable to reach its potential, especially in the more remote areas of the country that have potential for eco-tourism, agriculture tourism (coffee plantations), mountain hiking, river rafting, bird watching, camping, rainforest exploration, etc. As crime decreases, the country’s image abroad improves, infrastructure improvements are made to the county’s highway system, and as the government pushes to develop this industry, Colombia’s domestic tourism sector could see significant growth, and with it will come demand for hospitality services, training, hotel construction and renovations, tourism operators, hotel equipment and furnishings, and other related exports from the United States.

The United States is the most popular travel destination for Colombians, who last year spent about USD 2.3 billion in the U.S. (excluding airfares) on food, car rental, hotels, sightseeing, and shopping. The length of stay for Colombians in the U.S. varies, but is usually for approximately seven nights. However, for those with relatives in the U.S., the average stay ranges from two to four weeks. The time of travel usually corresponds to school calendars and typically takes place from November to early February, during Easter week (a national holiday in Colombia), and from June to late August. Since April 15, 2012, when the State Department increased the validity of B-1 and B-2 visit visas for Colombians traveling on a temporary basis to the U.S. from five years to 10 years, the number of Colombians traveling to the United States has increased over 20 percent. Colombia is forecast to resume growth in travelers to the United States in the coming years and reach 194,000 visitors (+23 percent) by 2021.

The change in visa validity is part of the U.S. Government’s effort to expand its partnership with Colombia to increase tourism. Additionally, the U.S. Government has streamlined the visa application process in order to reduce interview wait times. The Trade Promotion Agreement between U.S. and Colombia and the increase in Colombian investments in the United States are further stimulating business travel between the two countries.

The “Open Skies” air transport agreement signed in 2011 by the U.S. and Colombia expanded the strong linkages between the two countries, benefiting U.S. and Colombian businesses and travelers by expanding air service and encouraging competition among airlines, while safeguarding aviation safety and security. Airlines from the United States and Colombia are allowed to select routes, destinations, and prices for both passenger and cargo service based on consumer demand and market conditions. This agreement significantly increased air traffic between the two countries in the last three years. Currently, more than 200 weekly flights operate between Colombia and the United States.

Five U.S. airlines provide non-stop, daily flights between Colombia and the United States; Delta (from Atlanta and New York), United Airlines (from Houston and New York), American Airlines (from Miami and Dallas), Spirit (from Fort Lauderdale and New York) and Jet Blue (from Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and New York). Non-U.S. airlines (Copa, LATAM) also operate on some of these routes. Colombian airline Avianca provides non-stop flights to Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, New York, Washington-Dulles and Los Angeles; Satena is Colombia’s government-owned airline and is the only non-affiliated carrier in the country.

Most Colombians organize their trips through a local travel agent and are known to be last minute planners, especially to overseas destinations. The Internet has begun to affect the competitive balance in the travel and tourism industry as it provides an efficient vehicle for information access, marketing, purchasing, and paying for services. Most of the local travel agents have developed their own travel websites to offer online flight booking, hotels and car rentals.

Colombians are diversifying their travel habits, selecting other countries for their vacation plans. Latin American countries, especially Argentina, Brazil, Panama, Mexico and Ecuador, have become increasingly popular destinations. These countries are attractive alternatives because there is no visa required and promotional packages that include low airfares and all-inclusive hotel or resort rates are readily available. Strong competition from alternative destinations combined with the strong U.S. dollar make it imperative for the U.S. Travel and Tourism industry to consistently offer travel promotions to Colombian consumers.

Leading Sub-Sectors
  • Air transportation services;
  • Hotels, lodging facilities (including new construction and renovations to existing facilities);
  • Hospitality management and training services;
  • Eco-tourism and adventure tourism;
  • Passenger car rental;
  • Restaurants;
  • Sightseeing tours;
  • Amusement: theme parks, natural parks;
  • Shopping;
  • Special interest (sports, arts, entertainment);
  • Beaches;
  • Cruises;
  • Health insurance cards.
Opportunities
Colombia has great potential for investment in the following tourist niches:

Entertainment: amusement park construction, entertainment venues, and auditoriums enabled for concert events;

Nature: eco-luxury hotels, eco-glamping, eco-lodges/cabins with eco-friendly infrastructure (trails, paths, bird watching hubs, corridors);

Sun and beach: luxury hotels, boutique hotels, and golf resorts;

Urban hotels: full, limited and select service hotels, and hotels with convention centers.

Wellness tourism: hotels with spa and wellness centers, including thermals infrastructure and thalassotherapy;

The luxury segment is growing. Currently there are more than 20 luxury hotels distributed mainly around the cities of Bogotá and Cartagena, and seven new hotels are expected to arrive in the country.

The increasing flow of foreign passengers coming to Colombia is creating a growing demand for hotel services. Several major international hotel chains have started construction of new facilities or are increasing their properties in Colombia. Marriott opened a new hotel in Cali in 2015 and is planning to open 10 more in the following three years; Hilton has 14 properties in Colombia and plans to open nine hotels in other cities (Barranquilla, Cartagena, Bucaramanga and Medellin); Holiday Inn plans to open three new hotels in Bogotá, Barranquilla and Cartagena; Tryp and Wyndham opened a new hotel in Bogotá and plan to open 43 road hotels in Colombia in the next three years with the brands Days Inn and Super 8; Hyatt opened their first Hyatt Regency in Cartagena in December 2016, with 261 rooms, and will open two hotels in Bogotá, their first Grand Hyatt hotel with 373 rooms in 2017, and a Hyatt Place in 2018. Additionally, Sonesta and Decameron have announced their plans to build hotels in the cities of Bogotá, Medellin, Cali and Cartagena, with 52 new hotels (4,600 rooms) to be completed by 2017.

According to government agency ProColombia, local governments offer incentives in the form of an income tax exemption for a period of 30 years for hotel services in newly constructed and/or expanded hotels between 2003 and December 31, 2017. Ecotourism services receive this benefit for 20 years, beginning in 2003. Once the benefit expires, these companies will be subject to the general tax rate of 33 percent.

Other incentives:
  • Tax duty exemption and VAT deferral on capital goods used for tourism;
  • Legal stability agreements to guarantee investment projects;
  • Tax discounts by hiring new employees under 28, handicapped, displaced, or women over 40 years.
Trade Events
Vitrina Turistica - Annual trade show organized by the Association of Travel Agencies and Tourism (ANATO)
February 21-23, 2018
Bogotá, Colombia

Web Resources
Julio Acero
U.S. Commercial Service Bogotá
Phone: 571-275-2635
Email: Julio.Acero@trade.gov

Key Contacts
Colombian Association of Travel Agencies and Tourism (ANATO)
Colombian Special Administrative Unit for Civil Aeronautics (UAEAC) 
Ministry of Commerce and Tourism (Mincit)
Office of Travel and Tourism Industries

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Colombia Travel and Tourism Trade Development and Promotion