Sustainable tourism: a consolidating sector in Colombia
Since 2021, with the "Decree 646” signing, Colombia formally adopted a sustainable tourism policy. This makes sustainability a fundamental pillar for tourism development.
This is one of the greatest steps taken by the country in this area in recent years, as it is designed to a national level and has a strategic and long-term vision, which seeks to harmonize tourism development with the country's natural capital, which is seen as an important tourist attraction.
This step was reinforced by the "Tourism Sector Plan 2022-2026" presentation, which was designed to develop tourism "in harmony with life" during those four years and "seeks to promote environmental justice and climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies in the sector" to strengthen tourism sustainability.
To achieve this, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism promotes energy transition projects, circular economy, and recycling in tourism activities, among other actions proposed in this plan.
These changes indicate that sustainable tourism has a highly promising growth in the near future, which would be driven by public and private sector interests.
Six tourism regions
Currently, ProColombia has identified six national tourism regions (Greater Colombian Caribbean, Colombian Pacific, Western Colombian Andes, Eastern Colombian Andes, Colombian Massif and Colombian Amazon-Orinoco). These regions are well known for their natural environments, such as jungles, mountains, deserts, beaches, paramos (alpine tundra ecosystems), plains, mountain ranges and rivers, which became attractive sustainable tourism destinations.
The variety of natural environments allows the sustainable tourism activities development, such as sustainable tours like the one organized by Horses Cartagena Tours, which consist in horseback riding on Cartagena’s beaches with veterinarians and equine therapists.
Like this one, there are many other examples of sustainable travel companies dedicated to discovering the country's natural wealth and that seek to do so with the permission of both the national authorities and the communities that inhabit the territories, as in the case of the expeditions to Chibiriquete, organized by Colombia Oculta.
A growing and recovering industry
After COVID-19 pandemic, tourism in Colombia has experienced a significant growth. According to Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism information, in 2022 this sector contributed 2.1% of Colombian GDP, 0.4% more than 2021 and closer to 2.6%: 2019 figure.
Regarding this, the Tourism Vice Minister, Arturo Bravo, said: “We went from being the most affected by the pandemic economic sector, to contributing 2.1% of the Colombian Gross Domestic Product in 2022, a very close percentage to the one recorded in the best year in the country history for tourism, 2019.”
In addition, according to DANE preliminary data, the increase in tourists' number in 2022 was 103.3% compared to 2021. The country went from receiving 1.6 million tourists that year to 3.2 million last year.
Finally, as is mentioned on the Ministry's website, lodging accounted for the largest portion of tourist spending, followed by goods consumption and food and beverage provision.
This is part of a large industry that is made up of more than 700,000 workers, which expects to continue growing and wants to do so with a green infrastructure, a sustainability focus of its offer and being in harmony with life in Colombia´s regions. Invest in an industry that seeks to be the driving force of an entire country and that will grow while taking care of the ecosystems.