Tourism is growing in Colombia. This is indicated by the data from the first semester of 2023 provided by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Tourism. These figures show a significant increase in visits by non-resident foreigners compared to the same period last year. Likewise, the increase remains compared to 2019, the last year before the pandemic and lockdown.
Tourism, the Hope of the Country
“Tourism is the hope of the country.” This was the statement made by President Gustavo Petro during his speech commemorating his first year in office on August 7th in Boyaca. With these words, the Colombian president highlighted a booming sector with even greater growth potential. Tourism, as in other countries, could become one of the driving forces of the national economy.
Colombia is a land of great diversity, an obvious attraction for international tourism. The country features nearly all types of climates, two oceans, paramos, Amazon rainforests, as well as cultural and culinary offerings. The tourism potential is beginning to bear fruit and aims to establish a stronger presence on the international stage.
“Gradually, foreign tourism is becoming one of our major sources of foreign exchange, after hydrocarbons and remittances from relatives abroad,” the president stated in his annual review. The government of Gustavo Petro is banking on a sustainable model that respects the environment and offers benefits to the country in terms of employment and currency.
Data for Optimism
These government statements are backed by the figures from the first semester of this year. In this regard, non-resident visitors between January and June 2023 reached 2,705,474. This figure represents a 34.3% increase compared to the first semester of 2022, when the country received just over 2,014,000 visitors. In comparison to the same period in 2019, the figure was 2,216,043 visitors.
Taking a closer look at the numbers, during the first semester of this year, out of the total non-resident visitors, 1,930,421 were foreigners not living in Colombia. The rest were divided among 543,768 Colombians residing abroad and 231,285 cruise passengers.
The arrival of visitors by air was also higher. During these 6 months, 18.5 million travelers moved by plane. Of these, more than 7 million were on international flights. Between January and May of this year, there was a 34.1% increase in this regard compared to the same period in 2022.
Of all the months in the first semester, June had the highest traffic. A total of 416,000 non-resident visitors arrived in Colombia that month, the majority of them being foreigners. This represents a 13.2% increase from June of the previous year.
Rising Domestic Tourism
In line with the intentions of the new national brand promoted by the Petro administration, domestic tourism is also on the rise. It is estimated that around 3.5 million Colombians were domestic visitors in the first 3 months of 2023. This accounts for 15.8% of the total population of the country, and represents a 4.5% increase compared to the first 3 months of 2022.
However, in this internal aspect, the numbers from before the Covid-19 pandemic have not yet been regained. This year’s figure is 3.8% less than the same period in 2019.
References for Romance Tourism
A sector that is also experiencing growth is romance tourism. Many foreigners seek new experiences, something innovative for special moments in their lives. To support this sector, ProColombia organized a training course for tourism promoters looking to work in this field.
This training was conducted in collaboration with the International Association of Destination Wedding Professionals (IADWP), an organization based in Mexico with over a decade of experience in the romance tourism sector in Latin America.
In Colombia, this entity has trained over 200 entrepreneurs from 4 cities: Cartagena, Santa Marta, Cali, and Armenia. The training provides tools for organizing so-called destination weddings. These are events that aim for originality, where participants seek to tap into the uniqueness of the chosen location. Colombian entrepreneurs were educated on resource management and multiculturalism as a value, uncovering the opportunities that organizing such events offers for the country.