This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
Table 20: Colombia Travel and Tourism Data
Total Travelers to USA
Opportunities for U.S. companies in Colombia’s tourism sector encompass services that U.S. companies can offer Colombian visitors to the United States as well as tourism infrastructure and services that U.S. companies can provide to the Colombian market. In 2018, Colombia was listed as the number two destination to visit in a New York Times’ article “52 Places to Go in 2018”. An improved security environment and increasing prosperity in Colombia bode well for the tourism sector in that more Colombians are traveling internationally and more of Colombia’s national territory is open to tourism. 2018 was a record year for tourism-generated revenue in Colombia, and the country’s government is actively promoting the sector after years of hostilities with insurgency groups like the FARC hampered its development. Colombia’s beaches, mountains, colonial cities, coffee plantations, and oceans are capturing attention from international travelers, and the United States and Colombia are being connected by a growing number of direct, nonstop flights. Opportunities exist in Colombia for U.S. companies specializing in hotel and restaurant development and equipment, hospitality training and education, eco-tourism, ocean sports, and guided tours. Likewise, the United States will benefit from an increase in Colombian tourists, especially as Colombians venture beyond the traditional destinations of Miami-Orlando, New York, and Los Angeles.
In terms of international travelers to the United States, Colombia ranked 14th in 2018, with 942,617 travelers, a 12 percent annual increase, the largest increase in the last five years. Despite a relatively weak Colombian currency, Colombians are still interested in traveling to the United States and the United States continues to be Colombians’ top international travel destination.
The Travel and Tourism market represents approximately 3.8 percent of Colombia’s GDP and is the third leading source of foreign exchange behind oil and coal. Colombia’s Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism (MinCIT) announced that the country’s tourism revenues reached nearly USD 5.8 billion in 2018, an annual increase of 13 percent. The country received more than 6.8 million foreign tourists in 2018, an annual increase of 10 percent over the 6.1 million foreign visitors in 2017. Revenues from tourism have nearly doubled since 2010, according to MinCIT, and the government’s goal is to reach USD 40 billion in tourism revenues by 2022. According to the Colombian government, the tourism sector accounted for USD 8 of every USD 10 that entered the country in 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. Recent announcements include those by American Airlines, now offering a direct route between Miami and Pereira, and Delta, scheduled to start non-stop service between Bogotá and New York city in December 2019.
The Colombian Government is making rural development and tourism high priorities to ensure the 2016 peace agreement with the FARC guerrillas is sustainable and to diversify the economy 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 had been unable to reach its potential, especially in the more remote areas of the country that have the potential for eco-tourism, agriculture tourism (coffee plantations), mountain hiking, river rafting, bird watching, camping, rainforest exploration, etc. As crime rates decrease, 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 is starting to see significant growth, and with it will come a 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 3.13 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 approximately ten 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 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 growth) 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 the 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. This has also led to an increase in the number of airline seats offered from 12.8 million in 2013 to 16.7 million seats in 2017. The domestic market has also increased from 23 million to 30.2 million during the same period.
Five U.S. airlines provide non-stop, daily flights between Colombia and the United States: Delta (from Atlanta and as of December 2019 New York City), United Airlines (from Houston and New York), American Airlines (from Miami and Dallas), Spirit (from Fort Lauderdale), and Jet Blue (from Orlando and Fort Lauderdale). Non-U.S. airlines (Copa, LATAM, Viva Colombia) 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.
Colombian visa-holders are eligible to apply for Global Entry, a program that expedites clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Members enter the United States through automatic kiosks at select international airports. At airports, program members proceed to Global Entry kiosks, present their machine-readable passport and visa, place their fingerprints on the scanner for fingerprint verification and complete a customs declaration. The kiosk issues the traveler a transaction receipt and directs the traveler to baggage claim and the exit.
Travelers must be pre-approved for the Global Entry program. All applicants undergo a rigorous background check and in-person interview before enrollment. The program costs USD 100 and membership lasts 5 years, making it an attractive option for frequent travelers to the United States.
Frequent travelers to Colombia might be interested in Colombia’s trusted traveler program, Migración Automática. Travelers can register at airports for the program, which has a duration of two years. More information can be found at Migración Colombia.
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 and selecting other countries for their vacation plans. Latin American countries, especially Argentina, Brazil, Panama, Mexico, and Ecuador have become increasingly popular destinations. Europe and Turkey are also becoming very popular destinations for Colombians. 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 makes it imperative for the U.S. travel and tourism industry to consistently offer promotions to Colombian consumers.
• Air transportation services
• Hotels, lodging facilities (including new construction and renovations to existing facilities)
• Hospitality management and training services
• Ecotourism and adventure tourism
• Passenger car rental
• Sightseeing tours
• Amusement: theme parks, natural parks
• Special interest (sports, arts, entertainment)
• Health insurance cards
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, observation of birds);
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 thermal infrastructure and thalassotherapy;
Luxury Hotels: 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 in the coming years.
The increasing flow of foreign travelers coming to Colombia is creating a growing demand for hotel services. Several major international hotel chains have started the construction of new facilities or are increasing their properties in Colombia. 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 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, opened the Grand Hyatt in Bogota in 2018, and will open a Hyatt Place in Bogota this year. Additionally, Sonesta and Decameron have announced plans to build hotels in the cities of Bogotá, Medellin, Cali, and Cartagena, with 63 new hotels (4,600 rooms) to be completed by 2018.
According to the Colombian government’s export promotion agency ProColombia, Colombia offers incentives in the form of an income tax exemption for ecotourism services certified by the Ministry of the Environment until December 31, 2022. Once the benefit expires, these companies will be subject to the income tax rate of 33 percent.
• 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 under 40 years old unemployed for more than a year.
Vitrina Turistica - Annual trade show organized by the Association of Travel Agencies and Tourism (ANATO)
February 26 – February 28, 2020
VisitUSA Committee Colombia Road Show
March 2 – March 6, 2020
Bogotá, Cali, Bucaramanga, Medellín and Barranquilla, Colombia
Commercial Assistant Norcia Ward
U.S. Commercial Service Bogotá