He came to talk about Colombia’s peace. In an auditorium filled with travel industry experts and professionals, President Juan Manuel Santos, inaugurated the 36 version of ANATO, Wednesday, assuring an audience that everyone will want to visit a Colombia, at peace.
There were few surprises in the President’s inaugural speech at the most important tourism gathering in the country. “I invite you all to imagine Colombia as a country at peace,” said Santos, before affirming that what used to be considered “the Country Club of FARC,” is now a place accessible to all – nationals and foreigners alike – even a prince, referring to last year’s visit by HRH Prince Charles, who climbed to the top of the Chiribiquete and wandered around the rivers of seven colours in the Macarena, dressed in a suit and tie so as to not “break with protocol.”
Santos was convincing when he said that there are very few places in Colombia where foreigners can’t go, and announced that one of the country’s main objectives is to attract 5 million tourists by 2018.
Numbers released by the country’s immigration department, Migracion Colombia, show that this country received 1.2 million tourists in 2014 and exceeding all expectations.
The head of state also emphasized that the aim of his government was to attract more foreigners by investing in infrastructure, in the tourism sector and by giving more guarantees to foreign nationals.
This year, Cartagena and the department of Bolivar are the guest regions, and the international invitee is Puerto Rico. By promoting both Cartagena and the department, ANATO wants to showcase travel opportunities and open up new routes to places such as San Basilio de Palenque, Santa Catalina, San Juan Nepomuceno. The objective is that these places, which have isolated from the traveler’s trail, become more top-of-mind to all.
And there is no shortage of optimism during the launch of this three-day event. ANATO’s president, Maria Paula Cortés, said to The City Paper: “Colombia is living a great time. There is more interest on behalf of the world to do business here. In fact, 34 countries are participating this year at the fair.”
However, Cortés stated that much still needs to be done to draw foreign visitors to this country. “Tourism is the third leading revenue generator after oil and coffee. Our mission has always been to support the government in its quest for peace, because tourism is a sector which promotes peace and is sensitive to security issues. With peace, tourism can be the number one sector in the country.”