Expansion of air links to Colombia has helped put the country on the global tourism map: industry experts

The recent expansion of air links to Colombia has helped put the country on the global tourism map and boost investments in the Latin American nation’s tourism sector, industry experts said during the Global Business on Latin America 2018 in Dubai.

A panel session entitled “Getting on the Map – Tourism and the Wider Economy”, was joined by Gerald Lawless, Chairman of the World Travel and Tourism Council, and Maria Claudia Lacouture, Executive Director, AmCham Colombia, and Former Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism of Colombia.

“Airlines are the lifeblood of the tourism industry,” said Lawless, as evidenced by recent growth in Colombia, which has seen the number of airlines entering the country increase from 18 in 2016 to 26 in 2018. Lacouture expanded on this point by stating that the expansion of air links was absolutely crucial to attracting new tourists to the country.

The panellists also discussed effective strategies that Colombia and the UAE have implemented to change perceptions about their respective countries.

“Promoting Colombia internationally was successful because we had everyone – government, companies and more – working towards the same goal, to provide facts and figures that would help us put Colombia on the tourism map by portraying reality versus perception. Today Colombia is one of the must-visit destinations of 2018; we have seen an increase of more than 700% investment in tourism, and now have more than six million tourists,” said Lacouture.

“The key to changing perceptions is building security,” said Lawless, who described visa restrictions as one of the biggest obstacles to tourism growth. Both panellists agreed that Open Skies agreements are fundamental to creating economic benefits boosting activity within countries’ travel and tourism markets.

Lawless explained that while the direct and indirect impact of travel and tourism around the world contributes to 10% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the real value is in the potential for building respect and appreciation for other cultures.

“Tourism brings people together, and helps them understand each other. Dubai attracts over 16 million visitors a year, which introduces people from around the world to the Middle East, and builds appreciation and respect for cultures. That is the value of travel and trade globally,” he said.

Now in its second edition, the Global Business on Latin America was organised by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai.

The Global Business Forum on Latin America 2018 is part of Dubai Chamber’s Global Business Forum series, launched in 2013 to highlight new investment opportunities in a number of emerging and dynamic global markets, including Africa, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Latin America.

GBF Latin America, held on February 27th-28th, brought together top-level decision makers, including heads of state, ministers, dignitaries, prominent CEOs, heads of private banks, sovereign wealth funds, private equity firms, business leaders, and entrepreneurs from Latin America, the GCC and beyond.


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