12 in 2015 and 10 in 2016.
Those include high-profile luxury
properties, such as the W Bogota, which is
opening this November, and a 120-room,
six-star Viceroy property that is under development in Cartagena.
And while most of the lodging investment is in Cartagena and Bogota, the current hotel projects extend beyond the core
tourism centers to places such as Bolivar,
Magdalena and Santander.
One of the potential benefits of being a
relative latecomer to the tourism game is
that Colombia can look around at other
tourism destinations, observe what mistakes were made and try to avoid them.
International Expeditions’ Homel ob-
served, “I think that the conservation
movement in Colombia has benefited
from and learned the strives and mistakes
of other developing countries in Latin
America and has so far wisely planned
their ecotourism developments and re-
serves, more around the preservation of
the birds and wildlife within, than around
the human infrastructure.”
Colombia’s tourism industry is coming
of age at a time when sustainable develop-
ment is a hot-button topic, and the coun-
try appears to be keenly aware of the need
to strike a balance between investing in its
tourism infrastructure and hotel capacity,
while not ruining the resources that make
the country appealing.
“In terms of tourism, less will be more
in the long run,” said Cox & Kings’ Val-
lin. “As with any emerging tourism des-
tination, overdevelopment and too many
tourists tend to take away from the au-
thenticity that Colombia has to offer.
However, Colombia is far from this prob-
Perhaps some of the country’s stubborn
perception issues will only give Colombia
more time to develop its tourism product
at a reasonable pace.
“I don’t see [tourism development]
progressing too rapidly,” Robison said.
Continued from Page 29
See COLOMBIA on Page 34
CARTAGENA, Colombia — After a week
of remote treks through the rain forests
and an isolated ascent into the Colombian Andes with a small group of five
International Expeditions travelers, I was
convinced that we had the entire country
to ourselves. I was even feeling a bit torn
about coming home and writing about it,
only to let this wonderful South American
Then we rolled into the walled city of
Cartagena, the touristic colonial town on
the Caribbean Sea, and found that it was
abuzz with international travelers.
I was clearly a bit late to the party regarding Cartagena, which, despite being
the only place we visited in Colombia that
bordered on overly tourism-oriented, was
charming. It has every reason to be a bit
overrun, not least because it has become
a popular cruise port.
As for the rest of the country, for travelers in search of a destination where one
can often feel completely alone with nature, wildlife and the elements, they may
want to put Colombia on their near-term
to-do list — near-term because as the
situation continues to improve in Colombia, it’s only a matter of time before more
travelers start making their way there.
With an emerging destination such as
Colombia, which only really started to
develop its tourism offering in the last
decade, there are still going to be some
amenities lacking here, some hotel infra-
structure lacking there.
I would be lying if I said there was constant hot water and electricity available
at our rustic eco-lodge in the mountains
or that the roads were devoid of organ-jiggling potholes and ditches.
But that seemed like a relatively small
price to pay for the otherwise priceless experience of getting to see such a bounty
of unique flora and fauna; having genuine
encounters with the country’s welcoming and varied communities; feasting on
grilled meats, stews, arepas (a flatbread
made from corn) and fresh fruit juices
alongside locals; and simply getting to
visit a destination while it is still so refreshingly bereft of — well, to put it plainly, other tourists.
Cutting to the chase
What most people probably want to
know about Colombia, however, is: Did it
My knee-jerk reaction to that question
is that undeniably it did. I never felt that I
was in any sort of danger. There were no
sketchy-looking characters lurking around
anywhere. I never felt nervous about carrying my purse or other possessions in
plain sight. And while there weren’t a
See TOUR on Page 34
Left, the Ecological
Reserve Rio Blanco;
bottom left, view
from the balcony at
the Hotel Minca eco-lodge; bottom right,
bird-watching at the
Rio Blanco Reserve
Firsthand impressions of the real Colombia
A boat ride through
the mangroves at
Park outside of
From top: Plaza Bolivar
in Bogota’s historic district; a bar in the small
mountain town of Minca
doubles as a tourist information center; Bogota’s