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Colombia's Re-Awakening

Aug 18, 2007
When you think about Colombia, you will probably also be thinking about crime, drugs and kidnapping and truthfully, no one could blame you. This developing nation has for a long time, held a reputation as a the drug and kidnapping capital of the world.

The United Nations survey of crime statistics during the period 1998- 2000 placed Colombia as the country with the most murders per capita in the world, along with some frightening statistics on assault, kidnapping and street crime. For a long time, Colombia has been known as a dangerous place to live, and most certainly a dangerous place to travel to.

But since May 2002, when President Alvaro Uribe Velez came into power, things have started to change for the better.

At the beginning of his term, Velez announced a war against crime and drugs in his country and immediately launched a security crackdown across the nation. Injecting resources into the military allowed the nation to make major developments in reducing crime and kidnapping rates, and improving public security with a stronger police presence on the streets.

Since then, kidnappings have been reduced by almost 80%, and the economy is growing in strength, offering the Colombian people some light at the end of a dark and violent tunnel.

Colombia now boats a $130 billion dollar economy. Unemployment is now at a modest 13%, a decline by 3% since 2002, and inflation is down to 5% from a staggering 18% just ten years ago.

In an effort to maximise the country's opportunity for return on this expensive investment, President Velez went on to focus his power on tourism. In 2005 a global campaign encouraging support and interest in the country's tourism prospects was launched under the theme Colombia is passion.

The message was that the country is taking it's problems seriously, and under the support of recent positive changes to the countries stability, Colombia is making every effort possible to make it an attractive and safe place to visit for the international community.

Celebrities, political leaders and worldwide tour operators were invited to join a tour of the countries highlights, a showcase of the wealth of opportunities Colombia possesses, just waiting for travellers to experience and enjoy.

Colombia's figures in the tourism sector are now beginning to reflect that optimism. 2006, Colombia greeted 1.5 million international visitors, and increase in 50% since the previous year. That figure is now expected to grow a further 5% in 2007 and to generate close to USD $12822 million, about 6.3% of Colombias G.D.P.

As a result, Colombia's employment sector is also expecting to prosper, generating an expected 1173000 jobs that will account for nearly 6% of the countries total employment rate.

But beyond these expectations, members of the international community are responding to Colombia's efforts to clean up it's image. In April this year, Cartagena hosted the World Tourism Organisation's General Assembly, and in 2006 it was named by Lonely Planet as one of it's top ten best destinations for backpackers. As the website attests: Beyond the headlines is a thriving society with a rising middle class, some of the best health care and universities in South America, and improved security.

It becoming clear that the effects of a determined President's plan to change the face and the future of his country is having a positive and exciting impact on the nation, both internally and externally.

Business owners and investors have started to notice the shift in the balance of Colombia's appeal as a hot destination in the making, and interest in development opportunities is increasing.

Gaizka Pujana is one such investor, keen to make his mark on the face of a freshly polished country, waiting to open it's doors to the travelling world. He is the owner of a successful apartment holiday rental business in Spain, and is preparing to launch two additional branches of his business in Colombia later this year.

Starting small in 2003, with just one apartment, Get Ready Rentals now boats a portfolio of 15 apartments in Barcelona alone, and is enjoying the success of recent expansions in Sevilla, The Costa Del Sol and Madrid. According to Pujana, Colombia is going to be the next big destination for international travellers, and his intentions are to be there when it happens, just like he did in Spain.

A lot of my success is Spain is thanks to not just some good advice and well-timed opportunity, but also my judgement on the potential of the market there. I got involved right at the time when Barcelona as a destination was starting to explode. In just three years I have achieved a lot. I was in the right place at the right time, and now I am looking forward to doing it all over again.

Pujana believes that Colombia is the future for travellers seeking a low cost, high excitement, friendly location with exotic appeal, and his plan is to open two apartment rental business in Bogota and Cartagena by the end of 2007.

Colombia has everything a traveller wants to find, without the crowds, and at a budget price enthuses Pujana. It is his belief that the travel market mentality is changing. People are shifting in their preference from an overly safe and highly organised travel experience. They are now choosing to reclaim some of the control and spontaneity over their vacations, by choosing self catering accommodation and leaving their itineraries flexible.

He believes that Colombia's appeal exactly matches this desire. It has had a relatively recent awakening into the world of global tourism. It is innocence and inexperience is part of the charm for those seeking an escape from over developed, resort style destinations.

Opinions aside, there is no argument when it comes to Colombia's appeal as an exotic destination. With it's warm tropical climate, lush, dense Amazonian jungle, soaring mountain peaks, beautiful beaches and a complex cultural history, Colombia has what it takes to rival previously popular destinations like Morocco, Thailand and Nepal.

The place has this great feel to it. It's wild but in the sense that it's exciting. The people are warm and engaging, and your money will go a long way, he says. It won't be long until Colombia is fortifying it's optimistic future with hard tourist dollars. Just you wait and see...
About the Author
Gaizka Pujana is the co-owner of Barcelona Homes, S.L. which is a company
specialized in providing short term tenancy solutions in Seville and Barcelona through its
web pages Bogota apartment rental
Cartagena apartment Rental
accommodation Bogota
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