According to the Colombian Civil Aeronautics Authorities, about 2.2 million travelers from Colombia went abroad in 2006. An estimated 654,200 Colombians, 10 percent more than in 2005, traveled to the United States. These Colombian visitors spent an estimated US $1.65 million in the U.S. (excluding airfares) on food, car rental, hotel, attractions, and basic shopping.
The usual length of stay is seven nights, but if Colombians have relatives in the U.S., the common stay is from three to four weeks. Colombians have 15 working days of statutory paid vacation per year. Leisure travel usually takes place during school vacations (November to early February); during Holy Week (the week before Easter); and from June to early September. The U.S. share of Colombian passengers traveling abroad during 2006 was 37% of the total outbound market, followed by South America with a 27% share, Central America (including Mexico/ Caribbean) with 20, Europe with 15%,and other destinations (including Canada) with a 2.0 percent.
The main U.S. gateways for Colombians in 2006 were: Miami, Florida that handled approximately 59.0 percent of the passengers arriving from Colombia to the United States; New York City with about 8.5 %; Atlanta, Georgia, with approximately 4.3%; Houston, Texas with 4.2; and others, including Los Angeles, Newark, and Toronto (that is included in the official statistics of travelers to North America) with approximately 24.0 %.
Travelers from Colombia to the U.S. fall into four main categories based on the purpose of their trip: Leisure (40%); Business (30%); Shopping (20%); visiting friends and relatives (7%); and studies (3%). Currently, 80% of Colombians travel to the U.S. on a repeated basis. Colombia is the United States' fourth-largest export market in Latin America--behind Brazil, Venezuela, and Argentina--and the 26th-largest market for U.S. products worldwide. The United States is Colombia's largest trading partner, representing about 42% of Colombia's exports and 36.8% of its imports (source: Colombian Central Bank’s Magazine # 952). During the last four years, Colombia has become one of the most optimistic, stable and recovering economies in the region. Most economic indicators were positive during 2006. Inflation continued to drop for a fourth consecutive year (6.5 percent in 2003, 5.5 percent in 2004, 4.9 percent in 2005, and 4.5 in 2006). The inflation target projected for 2007 is 4.2 percent. Colombia’s economy expanded 6.8 percent in 2006, and is expected to surpass the 7.0 percent growth this year. Total foreign reserves increased from US $14.9 billion in 2005 to US $15.4 billion by December 2006.
The total number of passengers traveling from Colombian to foreign countries increased at an average of 12 percent during 2003-2006 and is expected to maintain a similar dynamic behavior during 2007-2008 due to: (a) the significant recovery of the Colombian economy that grew at 6.8 percent during 2006 and is expected to grow by 7.0 percent during 2007, (b) the significant revaluation of the Colombian peso that has reduced the cost of traveling abroad, (c) the recently signed Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA) between Colombian and the United States expected to be approved by congress in both countries and (d) the integration of several agreements that Colombia has signed or is negotiating with other group of countries, including the Andean Community, Mercosur, the Central American countries, and Europe.
The following factors led to substantial growth of the Colombian economy during the last four years and also has a direct positive impact on the travel and tourism market:
• improved security
• low inflation policy
• Colombian peso appreciation and stability
• increase in petroleum price
• a significant growth of foreign trade and investments
Most economic indicators were positive during 2006. Inflation continued to drop for a fourth consecutive year (6.5 percent in 2003, 5.5 percent in 2004, 4.9 percent in 2005, and 4.5 in 2006). The inflation target projected for 2007 is 4.2 percent. Colombian total foreign reserves increased from US $14.9 billion in 2005 to US $ 15.4 billion by December 2006. According to figures supplied by the Central Bank’s Technical Department, foreign direct investment (FDI) in Colombia reached US $6,295 million in 2006, surpassing the goal of US $ 6,000 million set for the previous year.
The peso has continually revaluated vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar during the last four years. At the end of 2002 the official exchange rate was $2,864.79 pesos per dollar. During 2003-2006, the exchange rate showed a continuous downward trend, with significant ups and downs, reaching $2,238 pesos per dollar by the end of 2006. The devaluation of the dollar in Colombia continues during 2007 when it went down to $1,878 pesos per dollar by mid June. The exchange rate has shown a slight recovery and today (August 17, 2007) the peso is trading at $2,048.44 pesos to the dollar. The sharp devaluation of the dollar is having a positive effect in lowering the cost of traveling abroad.
In 2006, Colombia was the United States' fifth-largest export market in the Western Hemisphere behind Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Venezuela. U.S. exports to Colombia in 2006 were $8.2 billion, up 12% from the previous year. Corresponding U.S. imports from Colombia were $9.3 billion, up 16% from 2005. The United States is Colombia's largest trading partner, representing about 42% of Colombia's exports and 36.8% of its imports (source: Colombian Central Bank’s Magazine # 952).
By Gabriel Ramjas