The Travel and Tourism market represented 1.9 percent of Colombia’s GDP last year. From 2008-2009, Colombia improved its global position to 16th on the list of top arrival-generating countries for the United States and third among South American countries after Brazil and Venezuela. Colombians preferred the U.S. to other destinations. In terms of outbound passengers, the U.S. grew its market share to 42 percent from 36 percent in 2009 followed by South America with 26 percent, Central American countries at 19 percent, Europe with 11 percent and other countries including Canada two percent.
The total number of Colombians traveling to all destinations in 2009 decreased as a result of the global economic crisis. Based on preliminary figures published by the Administrative Department of Security (DAS), 700,000 Colombians traveled to the United States during 2009, four percent less than in 2008. Although fewer Colombians traveled to the U.S., it remained the most popular overseas destination in 2009. A combination of factors including the global economic crisis, significant depreciation of the dollar versus the peso, special airfares, attractive hotel rates including car rental and the high-cost of domestic (within Colombia) travel, encouraged Colombians to travel to the United States.
Most Colombians arrange their trips through a local travel agent, and are known be last minute planners, especially to overseas destinations due to visas procedures. The Internet has begun to affect competition in the travel and tourism industry, as it provides an efficient vehicle for information access, marketing, purchasing and paying for services. Some large, local travel agents have developed their own travel websites to offer online booking of flights, hotels and car rentals. The Colombian Travel Agents Association (ANATO) is promoting two controversial measures to tax internet ticket sales and force air carriers to offer the same promotions to agencies that are offered to the general public. As of December 2009, both measures were pending before government authorities.
The usual length of stay abroad is seven nights, but if Colombians have relatives in the U.S., a two to four week stay is the norm. Colombian labor law provides 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 Department of Transportation (DOT), under the Open Skies Bilateral Agreement, authorized four U.S. airlines to expand their current operations with a daily flight between the United States and the capital city of Bogota: Delta (from New York), Continental Airlines (from Houston), Spirit (from Fort Lauderdale) and Jet Blue began flying to Colombia in January 2009 with a daily non-stop flight from Orlando. Avianca initiated a non-stop flight to Washington-Dulles and Aires began service to Ft. Lauderdale from Bogota and other Colombian cities in 2009.
Colombians also significantly diversified their travel habits, selecting other countries for their vacation plans. South America, especially Argentina and Brazil, became more popular destinations because no visa is 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 constantly promote travel opportunities.
If the United States Congress approves the Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA) between Colombia and the United States, it will foster significant growth in trade between the two countries that will result in the increase of Colombian business travelers visiting the U.S.
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
• Special interest (sports, arts, entertainment)
• Health insurance cards
From 2004 through 2007, the total number of passengers traveling from Colombia to foreign countries increased 14 percent. For 2008 and 2009 the growth rate declined six percent. The growth rate is expected to be six percent in 2010. The global economic crisis and closure of the Venezuelan border in 2009 affected most sectors of the economy, including the travel and tourism industry. However, there are positive factors that will help Colombia to overcome this situation such as: (a) the revaluation of the Colombian peso that has reduced the cost of traveling abroad, (b) the open skies policy, which allows new airlines to enter the country and provides greater freedom in routes and timetables and lower fares; (c) the possible ratification by United States Congress of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (US-CTPA) between Colombia and the United States; (d) the possible implementation of trade agreements between Colombia and other countries, including Mercosur, Central America, the European Union and the European Community.
The increasing flow of international visitors to Colombia is creating a growing demand for hotel services. Several major international hotel chains have started construction of new facilities. Marriott started operating one hotel in Bogotá during 2009 with plans to build in other cities. Hilton, Sonesta, Hyatt, and Decameron have announced their plans to build hotels in the cities of Bogotá, Medellin and Cartagena. These hotels are expected to be completed by 2010-2012.