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Travel and Tourism
A Top Export Prospect for Colombia

Market Estimates

(in U.S. $ millions)

2011

2012est

2013

Projected

Total Market Size

3,959

4,196

4,616

Per capita expenditures of Colombian travelers in the USA

1,755

1,860

2,046

Per capita expenditures of Colombian travelers in the rest of the world

2,646

2,805

3,085

Statistics are unofficial estimates based on reports from the sector in terms of GDP percentage; 2012 data is estimated with an increment of 10% from 2011. Source: Colombian Civil Aeronautics Office; Proexport; DAS.

Due to the steady growth in the GDP and the economic stability, Colombia offers a promising market for U.S. exporters in the tourism industry. Consumers are enjoying higher disposable incomes due to the favorable exchange rate of local currencies vs. the U.S. dollar, which increases the number of Colombian business and tourists traveling to the US. Colombia and the region, promise to lead the growth in tourism over the next 10 years, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The Travel and Tourism market represents approximately 1.9 percent of Colombia’s GDP. In 2011, Colombia ranked in the top 20 countries generating in-bound tourism to the United States and reflected the second highest percent change of total arrivals (19%) after Brazil (34%) in Latin America.

Based on preliminary figures published by the Colombian Immigration Department (DAS), 793,000 Colombians traveled to the United States during 2011, one percent more than in 2010. The U.S.is the most popular destination for Colombians, who spent about USD 1.75 million (excluding airfares) on food, car rental, hotel, sightseeing, and shopping. The length of stay for Colombians in the U.S. varies, but it usually is 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 with school calendars (there are two calendars) and usually takes place from November to early February, during Easter week and from June to late August. It also coincides with their mandatory 15 working days of statutory paid vacation per year.

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 have significantly diversified their travel habits, selecting other countries for their vacation plans. South America, especially Argentina and Brazil, have become increasingly popular destinations. These destinations 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. The strong competition from alternative destinations makes it imperative for the U.S. Travel and Tourism industry in Colombia to consistently promote travel opportunities.

A key impact on the Travel and Tourism industry is that on April 15, 2012, U.S. State Department announced the validity increase of B-1 and B-2 visit visas for Colombians traveling on a temporary basis to the U.S. from five years to ten years. Under these new rules, most Colombian applicants who qualify for a B-1 or B-2 non-immigrant visa will be issued a 120-month, multiple-entry visa. This is part of the U.S. Government’s effort to expand their partnership between the U.S. and Colombia and increase tourism. Additionally, the U.S. government has increased its efforts in the visa process capacity in order to reduce visa interview wait times. This and the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between U.S. and Colombia which was implemented on May 15, 2012, will foster a significant expansion of trade between the two countries that will result in the increase of Colombian business travelers visiting the United States.

Another significant announcement was that on May 10, 2011, Colombia and the United States signed an “Open Skies” air transport agreement. This Open Skies agreement will strengthen and expand the strong linkages between the two countries, benefiting U.S. and Colombian businesses and travelers by expanding air service and encouraging vigorous price competition by airlines, while safeguarding aviation safety and security. The complete benefits of this agreement will take effect by December 2012, airlines from the United States and Colombia will be allowed to select routes, destinations, and prices for both passenger and cargo service based on consumer demand and market conditions. This agreement will significantly increase air traffic between the two countries. Currently, 200 weekly flights operate between Colombia and the United States. During the transition period before the “Open Skies” agreement goes into force, each country will be allowed to add another 21 weekly frequencies on currently operated routes and create new itineraries without restriction. Five U.S. airlines provide direct daily flights between Colombia and the United States; Delta (from Atlanta and New York), Continental Airlines (from Houston), American Airlines (from Miami), Spirit (from Fort Lauderdale) and Jet Blue (from Orlando). Non- U.S. airlines (Copa, LAN) also operate on some of these routes. Avianca initiated a non-stop flight to Washington-Dulles and Aires now LAN, began service to Ft. Lauderdale from Bogota and other Colombian cities in November 2009. Aero Republica was purchased by Copa in 2010, leaving SATENA, the government-owned and operated airline, as the only non-affiliated carrier in the country.

Best Products/Services Return to top

Best products and/services for Colombia are:

  • Air Transportation Services
  • Hotels, Motels, Lodging facilities
  • Passenger Car Rental
  • Dining in Restaurants
  • Sightseeing tours
  • Amusement: theme parks, natural parks
  • Shopping
  • Special interest (sports, arts, entertainment)
  • Beaches
  • Cruises
  • Health insurance cards

Opportunities Return to top

The total number of passengers traveling from Colombia to foreign countries increased an average of 14 percent between 2004 and 2008. From 2011 to 2012 the number of travelers grew approximately ten percent. The growth rate for 2013 is expected to increase slightly to nine percent. There are positive factors that will help Colombia to augment the number of travelers going abroad for business and tourism purposes such as: (a) the revaluation of the Colombian peso that has reduced the cost of traveling abroad, (b) the “Open Skies” agreement (c) the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Colombia and the United States; (d) the validity increase of B-1 and B-2 visit visas for Colombians going to United States from five to ten years (e) the implementation of trade agreements between Colombia and other countries, including Mercosur (2005), Central America, Asia, Canada and the European Union.

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. Hilton opened a new hotel in Bogota and plans to open six more in other cities (Barranquilla, Cartagena, and Medellin); Holiday Inn plans to open three new hotels in Bogota, Barranquilla and Cartagena; Tryp and Wyndham opened a new hotel in Bogota. Additionally, Marriott, Sonesta, Hyatt, and Decameron have announced their plans to build hotels in the cities of Bogotá, Medellin, Cali and Cartagena, 24 new hotels (4,000 rooms) are expected to be completed by 2013-2014. During the period 2004 – 2010, the hotel industry investments passed from U.S. 24 million in 2004 to U.S. 1,700 million in 2010.

According to Invest in Colombia, local government offers incentives in the form of an income tax exemption for a period of 30 years, for new hotels constructed and/or expanded between 2003 and December 31, 2017, will receive this benefit for a period of 30 years. Also, ecotourism services will receive this benefit for 20 years, which began in 2003. The significance of this is that companies which benefit from these incentives will pay 0% income tax rate for a period of time and once that term is over they will be subject to the general tax rate which is 33%.

Resources Return to top

Julio Acero, Commercial Assistant: Julio.Acero@mail.doc.gov Tel: 011 571 275-2635

  • Colombian Association of Airlines (ALAICO): www.alaico.org Tel: 011 571 618-0540
  • Colombian Association of Travel and Tourism Agencies (ANATO): www.anato.com.co

Tel: 011 571 610-7099

Tel: 011 571 310-3640

Tel: 011 571 425-1000

Tel: 011 571 606-7676

Tel: 011 571- 601-0508

011 571 - 561-1804

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