Colombia increases air connectivity to help grow tourism

Latin America

Colombia increases air connectivity to help grow tourism

Air routes reaching the Andean nation from abroad tripled over the last two years. Seventeen new international routes began operation only in 2018, the same number as in 2016 and 2017 combined.

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Colombia is en route to expanding its tourism industry.

Thanks largely to improvements in security, the country is attracting more and more foreign visitors.

According to the U.N.’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the number of foreign tourists that visited the South American nation exceeded 4 million in 2017, 21 percent more than the previous year.

More than two million visitors entered the country in the first seven months of 2018, almost the same number as in 2010 (2.6 million), according to data from the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism of Colombia.

The new administration of Ivan Duque aims to add six million more foreign tourists in 2019-22. Not only to Bogotá, the capital, but also to other destinations.

To this end, the new minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, José Manuel Restrepo, recently said that “the airline industry is a key ally for Colombia to have a world-class tourism industry.”

ProColombia, the government entity that promotes foreign investment and tourism, says that Colombia currently has 127 international routes, distributed in 1,091 direct flight frequencies per week, served by 25 airlines.

Indeed, routes are diversifying. Of 17 opened in 2018, 10 fly to destinations other than Bogotá, including Cartagena, Cali, Medellín, Pereira and Santa Marta.

Only in the last quarter of 2018, new routes hard to imagine a few years ago were established. They include the direct flight San Salvador-Cartagena, serviced by Avianca. Several new flights from Orlando, to Bogotá, Medellín, Cali and Cartagena, via Spirit. The new options from Lima to Bogotá and Medellín, serviced by Viva Air Peru. The Cancun-Medelllín route operated by Aeromexico. And the new direct flight Miami-Pereira, via American Airlines.

Still, Bogota remains the main destination. Avianca established in the last quarter of the 2018 new direct flights to the capital, coming from Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Chicago and Munich.

Although Colombia’s tourism sector has grown fast in recent years, it is still quite small compared to the share of said industry in the economies of Brazil and Mexico.

Experts believe that further expansion of tourism in this Andean nation hinge on overcoming several challenges, including the expansion of airport and hotel infrastructure, taking service quality to international standards, and preserving favorable security conditions for tourists.

Latin Trade’s David Ramirez reported from Miami.