On Wednesday, the most important travel fair in the country, ANATO, opened its doors to industry professionals showcasing their national destinations and tourism services.

Held in the main exhibition hall of Corferias, more than 1,000 travel-related entities from Colombia and around the world signed up for the expo, which this year celebrates its 35th anniversary.

The event generates business opportunities and forms alliances between members of the tourism industry, from sales and promotions entities to airlines, cruise operators and hotel chains. Such connections facilitate the creation of your next holiday’s all-inclusive package or do it yourself eco adventure.

“We expect more than 37,000 during the three days of the event, and 30,000 commercial contacts to be made,” states Paula Cortés, President of ANATO.

This year, 45 countries are represented, including Egypt, Japan, Canada and the United States. Related Colombian companies will also be present, including 22 airlines, 73 travel agencies, and more than 260 hotels. Newcomers to the fair are Air Europa and Singapore Airlines.

During the launch of the fair, President Juan Manuel Santos addressed a full house and offered foreign tourists an “incentive” by eliminating the 16 percent sales tax (IVA) on tourism-related services, from cultural to medical.

“We are living more peaceful times than ever before. We are no longer suspicious citizens. But a proud people to whom doors are open. We are a country that advances towards normality,” stated Santos.

Even though the national government has announced it will push a severe tax reform through Congress and slash up to 60% of ministerial budgets, the President focused on Colombia as a global tourism destination and one which attractive to foreigners with a favorable dollar to peso exchange rate.

“We are no longer a risk destination but a dream destination, and prospects will get better once we finish the conflict and travel warnings end,” explained Santos.

Santos also announced a new tourism campaign called “Seguro te va a encantar” (“We’re sure you’re going to love it”). In Spanish, the slogan is a play on words mixing “security” and “surely” — a nod to the potential for improved security in the post-conflict era.

Mexico is this year’s guest country of honor and Yucatán, Jalisco, and Chihuahua have promotional stands highlighting local archaeology, gastronomy and culture. The government of Mexico also expressed interest in facilitating a third airline to fly between the two countries.

The department of Magdalena has sent 50 tourism entities to the fair aiming to especially promote local destinations such as Ciénaga, the coastal town home to the National Festival of Caimán; Aracataca, birthplace of Nobel Gabriel García Márquez and Ciénaga Grande, a community perched at the heart of the largest fresh and salt water lagoon in the country, the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta.