This week marks the start of the most important travel fair in the country, the Vitrina Turística by the Colombian Association of Travel and Tourism Agencies, ANATO.
During three busy days in the Corferias exhibition grounds, ANATO’s “Window on Tourism” will showcase destinations across Colombia, from the well-known to more obscure, as well as the airlines that can fly you there. Even though the focus is to promote Colombia’s diverse and rapidly growing tourism portfolio, 35 countries will also have booths at this trade fair in order to present their own travel destinations. President Juan Manuel Santos inaugurates this 37th edition, Wednesday February 21.
Car rental companies, airlines, hotels and travel agencies are all part of Vitrina Turística’s business-to-consumer attraction, but the fair is also a once-in-a-year chance for many smaller operators from this country’s 32 departments to meet potential clients and promote their services. From big brands to specialized boutique operators, more than 2,000 companies will participate in this year’s fair. Honduras and Tahiti are also making their first appearance in Bogotá. “Over the years, the Vitrina Turística has gained recognition in the country as a unique event to promote the national tourism sector,” claims Paula Cortés, president of ANATO. “It has also grown into one of the most important in all of Latin America.”
Besides the recreational tourism offering, the fair also promotes specialized clusters, such as medical tourism and the arrival of foreigners who are choosing Colombia as a destination for their health needs. The 37th edition will also have a booth on “Tourism, Peace and Coexistence,” that aims to promote 132 post-conflict destinations and help independent operators take their first steps to sell packages to both the national and international markets.
The ANATO travel fair opens at a time in which the Colombian Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism (MinCIT) has registered a sharp increase in the numbers of foreign visitors to the country in 2017. During a recent visit to the Island of San Andrés, minister María Lorena Gutiérrez confirmed that last year, Colombia welcomed 6.5 million tourists, placing the country among the top five in the Americas. The data by MinCIT shows an increase of 28% compared to 2016. “Among the factors that have influenced these positive results is the new security conditions in the country, derived from the peace process with FARC, as well as advances in infrastructure and economic development,” said Gutierréz. Foreign visitors who arrived on cruise ships totaled some 350,00 in 2017 and increase of 14% compared to the previous year. The port that received the highest number of cruise passengers was Cartagena, followed by Santa Marta and San Andrés. The increase in the number of foreign visitors has also benefited hotel occupancy in Colombia, which in 2017 was 55%.
The government also plans to invest in promoting internationally the country’s beaches, hiking trails and bird watching to complement its many cultural attractions and sustainable heritage towns.