The tourism industry has become one of the most powerful and revealing industries thanks to its high growth and dynamism. According to figures from the World Tourism Organization-WTO, between January and August 2017, destinations around the world welcomed 901 million international tourists, 56 million more than in the same period of 2016. In short, growth of 7 %.
Undoubtedly, South America shows a growth of 7% and Colombia has become the great revelation. According to data from ProColombia, in the first semester of 2017, incoming tourism in Colombia grew 46.3%, the arrival of international travelers to Colombia in 2016 reached 5,092,052 visitors. According to figures from the Bank of the Republic, tourism was the second largest generator of foreign currency, surpassing traditional products such as coffee, flowers and bananas.
Growth of the tourism industry in Colombia
It’s amazing how in just six years, tourism in Colombia has grown 95%. This promotional work started 15 years ago, any achievement, from a positive article in an international newspaper, to being a purchase option thanks to the tour packages with offers in the catalogs of the tour operators and wholesalers or the return of the cruises. , seemed a dream for those whose job was to show the true face of Colombia and return the confidence to international travelers, businessmen and investors to make, of this country, a Colombia that through its people managed to make millions of visitors fall in love thanks to the human warmth, diversity, joy and the unique experiences that only here could be lived.
Much of the task of restarting and finding a space in the tourism industry has been realized and part of the key has been the teamwork between the Government, the unions, the academy and the businessmen to put Colombia on the radar as a destination to discover.
Team Colombia has been seen in more than 40 countries, struggling with the goal of making tourism, the non-traditional industry of recent times for the country.
Now, how to maintain an accelerated growth like this? How to continue climbing? How to mark a trend?
For me, it is time to move on to the next phase where innovation and sustainability are going to play a preponderant role. The time has come to create an entrepreneurial wave in the tourism industry. Only then, will be able to have more than 10 million international travelers by 2025 and be among the preferred destinations in the world.
Being more explicit, Colombia needs to create a true ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurs that supports its main economic sector: tourism.
It is a real realistic dream to see Colombia playing again on the international tourism scene, receiving foreign visitors when it was considered a utopia and with a new internationally recognized image, today is a dream the creation and consolidation of an entrepreneurial ecosystem around to the tourism industry that allows innovation to empower tourism and hotel operators, that there are intelligent and hyper-connected cities and that the experience of visitors is every day so unique that it makes them return many times more.
Let’s start by materializing that dream. One of the key players in any ecosystem is the University: where everything can start! How many of you have studied at a business school? How many have received a class focused on tourism? Why, if it is the main non-traditional industry in the country, is there no incentive for the degree projects to be entrepreneurial towards the tourism industry? More business plans are needed focused on providing solutions to this industry: the happiness industry.
These business plans materialize in the creation of startups and here that dream comes back. Imagine being able to have tourist startups that manage to sell hotel rooms for hours, last-minute chairs sold in airports where there are planes with available seats or through a platform in real time can agglutinate tour packages that have not managed to sell travel agencies in low season and that possible local inhabitants are those who provide those services?
The startups generate solutions to the industry, shorten the marketing chain and in a world as changing as this, any second is used to capture the attention of a potential traveler.
These ideas of technological use linked to tourism already exist in the world and yes, the world is already taking advantage of the digital transformation, the use of data in an intelligent way and supporting more and more entrepreneurs who have projects that facilitate traditional companies to innovate more quickly and efficiently.
Multiply direct foreign investment in hotels and infrastructure has already been achieved. Now, what happens if the new approach is to bring venture capital and corporate funds to bet on innovation?
I like to create a culture of venture capital that helps accelerate the growth processes of tourism startups, in the sense in which international investors would bet on our Colombian entrepreneurs. But perhaps, more importantly, the shift in the flow of investment towards innovation can rapidly change the course of our country.
Going from being a traditional investment recipient country to being a Colombia that receives funds with billions of dollars portfolios that are committed to entrepreneurship and innovation. I like this message: from Colombia living youth in tourism to a disruptive Colombia, reference and sustained in its arrival figures of travelers thanks to a new wave of investment, entrepreneurship where innovation is our great strength.
Create a virtuous ecosystem where entrepreneurs scale thanks to investors. Corporations, tour operators and hoteliers are looking for new solutions for entrepreneurs to make their services more powerful and a Government that is committed from the creation of laws for entrepreneurship, to the promotion of risk capital with public-private funds. invest in the most promising startups and a set of collaborative networks that allow guides and other service providers to train with the use of technology and experience every day this more professional.
It is necessary to take advantage of the moment that tourism lives. This is achieved with the traditional foundations that have already been created but taking a quantum leap where the focus of our economic development is given thanks to talent, new ideas and government bets show that Colombia wants to position itself as the most innovative country in the industry tourism of the region, which grows the most and which was able to diversify its economy, with the noblest industry of all: tourism.
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