LATAM e-News | Special Edition: Medellin – July 2018
Interview: Federico Gutiérrez

Federico Gutiérrez
Mayor of Medellin

1. What are the pillars on which you base your objectives for the city?

“How you campaign is how you govern”: this premise has guided my way of setting goals and designing public policies for the city. We campaigned in the streets, talking to the people. I am convinced that what happens in the neighborhoods is what happens in the city and that is why it is necessary to work from there. There are the problems and solutions.

I do this because for me there is a fundamental cross-cutting issue and that is confidence-building: trust between citizens and institutions, and between citizens themselves. We strengthen ties when there is a presence of the Mayor’s Office in the neighborhoods and when what we do really responds to the needs of the people.

Education, for example, is a fundamental issue because it provides tools for our people to dream and fulfill their dreams, so are urban planning interventions in public spaces, public transport system, the preservation of air quality… We are building a legal, equitable and sustainable city through a model of public management based on citizen trust.

2. What actions were taken to build travelers’ confidence after the signing of the Peace Agreement?

Tourism is an industry that boosts economy and contributes to the growth of the impacted communities. In this context, the Mayor’s Office of Medellin is committed to responsible, sustainable, competitive and transformative tourism. Medellin is a wonderful city, worth visiting and discovering. A happy, vibrant and exciting city.
This is a city we can always learn from. Today we are a global benchmark in terms of social and urban innovation, and we are moving from being a city that is characterized by its transformation to being transformative thanks to the commitment of all sectors of our society. We have a violent past that has led us to reinvent ourselves and, despite the difficulties, to always overcome them. It is worth to walk our streets, admire the mountains and above all fall in love with our people. We believe in a Medellin that is committed to the region and connected to the world.

3. What is the number of tourists arriving to Medellin each year, and how has it evolved and grown in the last years?

According to the SITUR Tourism Information System in Medellin, the number of international tourists increased. In the last two years, 1,437,656 passengers arrived in the city, 702,086 in 2016 and 735,570 in 2017, with an average hotel occupancy of 63% in the last year.

Between January and May, 319,053 visitors arrived, of whom 131,118 were international visitors and 187,935 local, a 16.8% increase compared to the same period in 2017. The growth in the arrival of international visitors during the year is noteworthy, reaching 27.7%.

The target for our government is 2,500,000 visitors. The average hotel occupancy rate in the last two years has reached 63% – the national average is 55% – and the number of events recorded for the city in the two years of government has reached 175. These achievements are evidence of a coordinated effort with the private sector, academia and citizens that has made the city an attractive destination for the world.

4. What are the segments with the best opportunities for tourism development within the city and how are they being promoted?

Medellin has a Strategic Tourism Plan for the next seven years, focusing on the two segments of high value for the city. On the one hand, business tourism, from where we have a strategy for attracting events, meetings and conventions that generate impact on the leading activities or areas of specialization of the city. On the other hand, health and wellness tourism represents a great opportunity for the development of tourism in the city, thanks to quality and high- complexity medical centers in Medellin. Across these segments are culture, leisure, shopping and gastronomy, which are fundamental to the continued consolidation of the city as a tourist destination.

5. Is there currently any regulation or project to regulate the activity of platforms such as Airbnb in the city?

Medellin has a Public Tourism Policy that is related to the city’s Economic Development Policy and addresses the need to respond to global economic trends, with collaborative platforms being part of these. However, the regulation of platforms such as Airbnb is under the national government’s domain.

6. What is the situation of hotel beds in the city and what do you consider to be the challenges for achieving greater hotel development?

In the last two years, the hotel sector in Medellin has experienced significant growth and investment, which today is reflected in the arrival of international brands such as Marriott, City Express, Swissôtel, Hilton, Viaggio and Atton.

Also noteworthy are the new openings, such as the two new suite hotels of the Estelar chain, which totals five hotels in the city, and the three new hotel projects of Accor, for a total of four hotels in Medellin and the Metropolitan Area.

We currently have 9,153 rooms, 14,099 beds in 201 formal hotels with high quality standards that energize this strategic economic sector of the city, according to data from Cotelco.

According to Medellin’s Strategic Tourism Plan, we have the challenge of positioning the city as one of the best destinations for Business Tourism in Latin America, so we have the challenge of attracting luxury hotels and preparing the city to serve a more sophisticated tourist with high value services.

7. In your opinion, how does SAHIC South America contribute to the development of the hotel industry and what are your expectations for the next edition in your country?

We are happy to be the host city of this important event and deeply appreciate the vote of confidence from the organizers. We know that it responds to our growth and articulated work to consolidate the hotel industry in Medellin, and therefore also represents a challenge to continue working for tourism in our city.

The fact that SAHIC South America has chosen us is an important achievement because it places us in the international scene and contributes to our economic dynamics with segments that we aim at such as business, health, cultural and nature tourism.

8. Which social network do you use most often and why?

I am an active user of social networks because I see them as channels of communication with citizens and as platforms to be permanently accountable. Through networks I stay close to people; through them we also build trust. I use mainly Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to publish about our management, and to measure the impact of what we do on the daily lives of our citizens. The criticism and suggestions I receive through these platforms help me a lot to improve in certain cases or, in others, to confirm that we are on the right track.


Federico Gutiérrez is a civil engineer from the University of Medellin, a specialist in High Management from the same university and a specialist in Political Science from the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana. He is the first mayor of Medellin whose candidacy was endorsed by citizen signatures and not by a political party.

He was a councilman of Medellin and president of the first commission from 2004 to 2007. He was re-elected in the period 2008 – 2011 with 14,000 votes, the highest number of votes ever obtained by a councilman in the city’s history. This time he served as president of the Council.

In 2009, he was recognized as Outstanding Youth of the Year in the category of political, legal and governmental affairs by the Colombian Junior Chamber.

After seven and a half years as a councilman, he ran for mayor of Medellin in 2011 and received over 120,000 votes. In the period 2011 – 2014 he did not hold any public office; he worked as a consultant in Integral Urban Security for the city of Buenos Aires (Argentina) and the municipality of Celaya (Mexico).

In 2015, he ran again for the Mayor’s Office with the “Creemos” movement, created and led by him. His candidacy was guaranteed by the signatures of approximately 120,000 citizens. On 25 October 2015 he won with 246,221 votes.

It was a campaign that broke new ground and exceeded expectations. A low-budget campaign, almost 100% done on the street, talking to people, looking them in the eye. This has also been the premise of his administration: to govern in the face of the citizen, not denying realities but transforming them. In his government, priority is given to integral security, sustainable mobility, quality education and citizen culture.

He is passionate about Medellin and throughout his life (regardless of his political career) he has walked the streets of the city, talking to people and working to ensure a better quality of life. He describes the dream city as safe, equitable and sustainable, and is convinced that the way to achieve it is through a public management model based on public trust.

Twitter: @ficogutierrez
Instagram: @ficogutierrez
Facebook: Federico Gutiérrez Zuluaga

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