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Colombia Making Waves as In-Demand Cruise Destination and Sustainable Tourism Hot Spot

Although known for beaches and well-preserved cultural heritage, the country also presents a swell of biodiversity

Colombia is on the way to becoming a leading destination for sustainable tourism, especially as it showcases its diverse cultural and natural heritage to experienced travelers. However, cruise lovers are also finding their way to Colombia as the destination is showing significant advances in the cruise industry at a global scale. Over the course of 15 years around 35 of the most prestigious cruise lines have reached Colombian coasts, and the number keeps growing.

“Since 2006 there has been a significant growth in the number of cruise ships coming to Colombia. Dockings increased from 53 in 2006 to 231 in 2018, an increase of 335 percent in ship arrivals and 646 percent in passenger arrivals going from 50,946 to 380,000,” says Flavia Santoro, president of ProColombia, the government agency in charge of promoting non-mining-energy exports, foreign direct investment and tourism.

The improved interest of cruise lines in Colombia is demonstrated by the wide range of cruise companies visiting the country, such as Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Cruises, Holland America, Celebrity Cruises or TUI Cruises and more recently the arrival of lines specializing in luxury and exploration.

Colombia is also a powerhouse for procurement. The country supplies cruise lines with textiles, agrobusiness products such as coffee, and has the potential to grow sustainably in this business.

The country has competitive advantages for the cruise lines, which include coasts in the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans, a wide range of exotic beaches, and a strategic location outside of the hurricane area which allows for an uninterrupted operation throughout all the year.

Besides the must-see cities of Cartagena and Santa Marta, Colombia has other destinations on the Caribbean such as San Andrés island, a sun and beach paradise that has been selected by the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards as one of the top 5 islands in the Americas.

On the other hand, The Pacific coast is a great option for nature and adventure tourism offering activities like diving, trekking or whale and bird watching. When it comes to bird watching, Colombia has the greatest number of bird species globally: more than 1,920.

“Colombia is a great destination for sustainable tourism because it is one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots,” said National Geographic Editor At Large, Costas Christ, noting Colombia has the potential to become a leading destination for sustainable tourism. “One out of ten species in the world are found in Colombia. Colombia also has a fantastic geological diversity: mountains with snow right to the Caribbean beaches; many of the world’s rare and beautiful species from birds to wildlife are found in Colombia. It is important that Colombia develops tourism according to the principles of sustainable best practice. If Colombia follows sustainable tourism guidelines, I believe it would become one of the world’s, maybe even the world’s greatest nature travel destinations.”

Those sentiments were supported recently in a meeting on sustainable tourism in New York by Flavia Santoro, the President of ProColombia, which is the agency that promotes the development of a sustainable and responsible tourism industry.

“We believe that tourism must benefit not only the traveler, but also the destination, the community and the environment,” she said.