Arturo García Rosa
President & Founder, SAHIC
Colombia, the wonder of a transformative revolution
Finally, Colombia has arrived to the tourism elite in South America regarding number of international tourists received annually.
Historically, Brazil and Argentina, in that order excepting year 2011, have been clear leaders standing alone in the segment of 6+ million tourist arrivals per year.
Also, historically, there has been a second segment in which Chile, Peru, Uruguay and Colombia were placed, which were around 3 million international annual arrivals, some a little less, other closer to 4.
But 2017 has broken this long lasting rule and two new players were enthroned in the highest segment, Chile and Colombia. Both of them around 6.5 million, consolidating a growth that was evident in the last year and that it seemed, at least certainly for the case of Colombia, that it is a curve that has still not shown its best. In the words of the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, María Lorena Gutierrez, during her speech in the opening of the Tourism Investment Forum 2018 organized by the government of that country, last April 25th in Bogotá, “Tourism industry in Colombia is still not showing all its cards.”
In the light of what I have personally been able to experience during these past fifteen years in contact with the world of hotels and tourism in that country, and what somehow, more or less consciously in the presentation of many of the speakers in the aforementioned forum has become clear, I am absolutely certain that growth in hotel and tourism business in Colombia will continue in the coming years.
Regarding the reasons for demand growth, which of course, would be impossible without a supply growth such as the one Colombia has undergone in the recent years, not only it can’t be stopped in this aspect, but also wouldn’t be fair to focus in the law that promoted investment in hotels (new hotels and improvement of the existing ones) by which taxes were waived for 30 years to all those who chose to take advantage of the benefits of that law.
If we only think that at the beginning of the 2000’s most of the young Colombians only knew their country through the story telling of the elder people. To travel by land even to the outskirts of big cities was really unthinkable. It was the well-known “caravans” instrumented by former president Uribe (2002-2010) the ones that allowed, with the concentration of security forces protecting the citizens from attacks and threats from the FARC, the ones which started to allow that the elder rediscover their land while the youngest begin to enjoy it.
A long time has passed, or maybe short, it depends on how you look at it, but sometimes it sounds unbelievable. As the proliferation of the public and private security forces in almost all public and private buildings. Office buildings, hotels and parking lots among others, displayed in a conspicuously ostensible manner uniformed personnel with dogs that sniffed at each living creature that was intended to enter any of those. When arriving to the airport, security measures justified by what was happening, reached the paroxysm of making the most normal of the mortals feel like a criminal.
It seems like yesterday and somehow, in times of other peoples, it really is, when we see that days and hours do not seem to go by, at least if it is measured in necessary transformations for the improvement of its population.
“The only risk is wanting to stay” (http://bit.ly/2vUsu7C), the very thoughtful campaign that Colombia showcased to the world in 2008. Ten years and it is now “an antique”. Six and a half million tourist in 2017 and growing, leave no place to doubts, that people more and more, have one or many of the various destinations of Colombia among their “must”. Those who have already visited the country, have returned over and over again, those who have not yet done so, have it among their important pendants and for upcoming attention.
Its people, its music, its tremendous natural resources, its biodiversity (the richest by square km), as the renowned specialist and National Geographic Traveler editor said “If biodiversity had a name, it should be Colombia”.
In short, multiple reasons, but there is one that I am certain that is the source of everything, the Colombians themselves. Men and women, old and young, government officials, business men and women and even children, outstanding people and above all, common men and women that wake up every day and make possible this reality that is Colombia.
A country that has undergone one of the most horrendous atrocities of mankind, as has been the armed confrontation that has extended for more than 50 years. An asymmetric war, as some define it, provoked by the attitude of the guerrilla, mainly in the hands of the FARC and groups such as ELN and EPL.
A war that has been finished by the wonder of a transformative revolution faced by the majority of the Colombian people, conducted by the leaders that they learned to give themselves.
In the closing of the referred investment forum that took place past Thursday 25th, that was conducted by key people of the Colombian industry, successful businessmen, clever people, prepared and very committed to the destiny of their own country.
Their vicissitudes, their achievements, some failures but their continuous struggle are a vivid example of that wonderful revolution I mention. A hard task, of every day, of many days, with achievements and upsetting experiences, but with the reward of knowing that they were in the good path.
It is then natural that the description of what needs to be done arises, of the problems to solve, the deficiencies that must be corrected, of the times to solve things and so many other things that we all know. “Beans are cooked everywhere” says an old Spanish phrase.
As I liked to remember in the closing words of the event, in the space that was gently ceded by the government to remind the upcoming edition of the 11th edition of SAHIC South America (September 24 and 25 in the beautiful city of Medellin, the second in importance of Colombia), it is almost always like this, we tend to believe that the neighbor’s grass is greener.
Beyond the veracity of the subject or not, the truth is that improvement is like change, something permanent and, if this way to see reality is useful as an incentive to keep improving, let’s welcome it.
Looking backwards, a time that as I have mentioned, sometimes seems that was yesterday and in other times that was so long ago, whichever the personal point of view, the reality is that the work done has been incommensurable, a real transformative revolution. But the work continues, in the path of development, the transformation, of life in general, one never arrives, you are always in the route towards a destination that is renewed in each achievement and each setback.
Therefore, it is a good practice to get used to listen for a moment the applause for the work so well done, celebrate it eagerly, but at the same time recharge energy to keep on working for what it is yet to come.
As law people, attorneys and judges among others like to say “he who can do the most, can do the least”.
A country that has achieved what Colombia has, will know to outperform itself for the benefit of its inhabitants and all those that know how to seize the opportunities of this big country.
A country with clear regulations, stable, democratic, that makes of improvement one of its most powerful weapons, even in situations when many usually give up. A different county where opportunities multiply and in the hotel and tourism business presents one of its highlights.
I invite you to discover them.
SAHIC South America next September 24 & 25 in Medelllín, will be one of the big opportunities to do so.