Colombia was in the spotlight as hundreds
of travel trade buyers and suppliers from around the world
descended on the Caribbean seaport of Cartagena de Indias last
month for the 31st annual TravelMart Latin America trade show.
A record 300 buyers
representing 230 companies met with 560 suppliers from 265
companies and tourism organizations from across Central and South
America at the three-day event. The confab was organized by
Jacksonville, Fla.-based event-management firm William H. Coleman,
in cooperation with Cartagena's city tourism board, Turismo
Cartagena de Indias.
Officials from the
city tourism board and Proexport, Colombia's national agency for
tourism promotion, said they viewed the return of TravelMart Latin
America to the Andean country as a rare chance to showcase its
potential at a global level, at a time when its political, economic
and tourism fortunes seem to be on the rise. (The first and only
TravelMart Latin America held in Colombia took place in Bogota in
Abuabara, tourism advisor at the Proexport office in Cartagena,
said that the scenic and historical seaport was the country's most
obvious candidate to host an international tourism
The city, founded
in 1533, boasts a charming, historic, walled core that's home to
many restaurants, attractions and boutique hotels. Bocagrande, the
city's exclusive beachfront resort and residential neighborhood, is
all of Colombia, but Cartagena is the No. 1 destination in the
country," Abuabara said. "Colombia, in effect, is sold by Cartagena
... [where] tourism is the main industry."
visitor numbers are to be believed, the city is doing a good job.
In the first three months of this year, Colombia attracted 1.3
million foreign visitors, compared with 900,000 for all of
"This year, we had
an important increase, and I think we are getting better positioned
in foreign markets," said Abuabara.
She attributed the
upturn in arrivals to "a lot of hard work" in the four years since
The organizers of
TravelMart Latin America, which was held from Sept. 12 to 14 at the
Cartagena Convention Center in the picturesque historic center,
credited this year's record buyer registration to curiosity about
president and CEO of William H. Coleman, said that this year's
registration was an all-time high for the show.
"We think this high
buyer registration reflects the increasing awareness and interest
in Cartagena and other Colombia tourism destinations," Coleman
Of the 300 buyers
in attendance, approximately 30% hailed from the U.S.
"In fact, about 40%
of our own appointments at the Proexport booth were from the U.S.,"
Avianca increases U.S. service
carrier Avianca has noted the uptick in interest in Cartagena and
Colombia in general, particularly from the U.S. On Nov. 1, the
airline plans to boost nonstop service between Miami and Cartagena
from five flights per week to daily service.
Avianca, which will
launch Orlando-Bogota service in May, is also considering launching
nonstops between Cartagena and New York sometime in 2008, said Juan
Ricardo Castillo, Avianca's international sales director. The
carrier already flies nonstop from New York (Kennedy) to Bogota,
Medellin and Barranquilla.
"We think that New
Yorkers looking for a long weekend getaway might opt for
Cartagena," Castillo said.
He met with
interested U.S. tour operators at TravelMart.
"It starts with the
larger tour operators, and we've seen them, including the most
prestigious companies, begin to add Cartagena and Colombia to their
Latin America brochures and catalogs," Castillo said.
Using Cartagena as
a jumping-off point, Proexport plans to begin promoting Colombia's
other destinations. These include Bogota, the Caribbean islands of
San Andres and Providencia, the Amazon River basin and the
country's "coffee route" in the Andes Mountains.
"We are finding we
have other products, such as the Amazon region, that are important
for us," said Abuabara.
contact Destinations editor Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to [email protected].