The contribution of Travel & Tourism to GDP was USD5,880.3bn (2.0% of total GDP) in 2016. Tourism generated 556,135 jobs (2.5% of total employment) in 2016. Foreign tourist visits were predicted to have risen from 0.6 million in 2007 to 3.3 million in 2016.
Colombia has major attractions as a tourist destination, such as Cartagena and its historic surroundings, which are on the UNESCO World Heritage List; the insular department of San Andrés, Providencia y Santa Catalina; and Santa Marta and the surrounding area. The coffee region is also a very popular destination, especially the city of Armenia and its surroundings. Fairly recently, Bogotá, the nation's capital, has become Colombia's major tourist destination because of its improved museums and entertainment facilities and its major urban renovations, including the rehabilitation of public areas, the development of parks, and the creation of an extensive network of cycling routes. With its very rich and varied geography, which includes the Amazon and Andean regions, the llanos, the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, and the deserts of La Guajira, and its unique biodiversity, Colombia also has major potential for ecotourism.
In the early to mid-1980s, international tourism arrivals in Colombia reached nearly 1.4 million per year. Although they decreased by more than half thereafter, they have recovered at rates of more than 10 percent annually since 2002, reaching 1.9 million visitors in 2006. Tourism usually has been considered a low-growth service industry in Colombia because of internal violence, but in 2006 the country earned US$2 billion from international tourism. Tourists visiting Colombia from abroad came mainly from the United States (24.5 percent), followed by Venezuela (13.4 percent), Ecuador (9.1 percent), Spain (6.4 percent), and Mexico (4.9 percent). Approximately 90 percent of foreign tourists arrive by air, 10 percent by land transportation, and a tiny share by sea.
The recovery of tourism has been helped by the Democratic Security and Defense Policy of Álvaro Uribe Vélez (president between 2002 and 2010) and the so-called tourist caravans (caravanas turísticas), in which military forces provide reinforced protection on previously scheduled days to roads reaching major holiday attractions. The Democratic Security Policy, as it is known, is aimed at reestablishing control over all of the nation's territory, fighting illegal drugs and organized crime, and strengthening the justice system. The government also has been working toward generating a significant recovery in international tourism through Proexport Colombia, the public export-promotion agency. The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism is the Colombian ministry in charge of tourism affairs.
Popular times to visit Colombia include the most famous festivals such as the Cali's Fair, the Barranquilla's Carnival, the Bogota Summer Festival, the Ibero-American Theater Festival and the Flower Festival is when the most foreign tourists go to Colombia. Many people visit Colombia during Christmas time and the celebrations surrounding the Independence of Colombia. The Ministry of Tourism considers high seasons the Holy Week, the northern hemisphere summer months (June, July, August, September) and Christmas season. During the Holy Week many travel to the Caribbean Region of Colombia or visit popular landmarks like Las Lajas Cathedral, Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá, the towns of Santa Cruz de Mompox, Guamal or Popayán where Roman Catholic traditions and rituals are performed, among others.
The great variety in geography, flora and fauna across Colombia has also resulted in the development of an ecotourist industry, concentrated in the country's national parks. Popular ecotourist destinations include: along the Caribbean coast, the Tayrona National Natural Park in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range and Cabo de la Vela on the tip of the Guajira Peninsula; the Nevado del Ruiz volcano, the Cocora valley and the Tatacoa Desert in the central Andean region, the Farallones de Cali National Natural Park, in the departament of Valle del Cauca; Amacayacu National Park in the Amazon River basin; and the Pacific islands of Malpelo and Gorgona, there other unique landscapes like the river of the seven colors in Meta. As of 2016, there are eight World Heritage Sites in Colombia, including six cultural sites and two natural sites.
Most visitors arriving to Colombia on short term basis in 2016 were from the following countries of nationality:
The Colombian coffee-growers axis (Spanish: eje cafetero) is a part the Colombian Paisa region famous for the growing and production of most Colombian coffee, renowned as some of the best coffee in the world. The axis is composed of three departments: Caldas, Quindío and Risaralda. These departments are among the smallest departments in Colombia with a total combined area of 13873 km² (5356 mi²), this amounts to roughly 1.2% of the Colombian territory. The combined population is 2,291,195 (2007 census)
Colombia has two coastlines; Pacific and Caribbean, three main mountainous chains and the isolated Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, and many different ecological regions, from páramo to tropical jungle vegetation to desert biomes. The country hosts numerous volcanoes and waterfalls.
The climate of Colombia is characterized for being tropical and isothermal as a result of its geographical location near the Equator presenting variations within five natural regions and depending on the altitude, temperature, humidity, winds and rainfall. Each region maintains an average temperature throughout the year only presenting variables determined by precipitation during a rainy season caused by the Intertropical Convergence Zone.
As of 2016, there are eight World Heritage Sites in Colombia, including six cultural sites and two natural sites.
|Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia||ColCaldas, Quindío and Risaralda Departments
|Historic Centre of Santa Cruz de Mompox||ColBolívar Department
|Los Katíos National Park||ColAntioquia and Chocó Departments
|Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary||ColValle del Cauca Department
|National Archeological Park of Tierradentro||ColCauca Department
|Port, Fortresses and Group of Monuments, Cartagena||ColBolívar Department
|Qhapaq Ñan, Andean Road System||ColVarious, shared with
|San Agustín Archaeological Park||ColHuila Department
Colombia is known as "the land of a thousand rhythms". Colombia has more than 1,025 folk rhythms.
Some of the main genres are:
Other urban music genres are salsa, pop, rock, and others.
For many years serious internal armed conflict deterred tourists from visiting Colombia, with official travel advisories warning against travel to the country. However, in recent years numbers have risen sharply, thanks to improvements in security resulting from former President Álvaro Uribe's "democratic security" strategy, which has included significant increases in military strength and police presence throughout the country and pushed rebel groups further away from the major cities, highways and tourist sites likely to attract international visitors. Foreign tourist visits were predicted to have risen from 0.6 million in 2007 to 3.3 million in 2016.
Colombia has 3,034 kilometers (1,885 mi) of rail lines, 150 kilometers (93 mi) of which are gauge and 3,154 kilometers (1,960 mi) of which are gauge. However, only 2,611 kilometers (1,622 mi) of lines are still in use. The national railroad system, once the country's main mode of transport for freight, has been neglected in favor of road development and now accounts for only about a quarter of freight transport. Passenger-rail use was suspended in 1992 and resumed at the end of the 1990s. However, fewer than 165,000 passenger journeys were made in 1999, as compared with more than 5 million in 1972, and the figure was only 160,130 in 2005. Short sections of railroad, mainly the Bogotá-Atlantic rim, are used to haul goods, mostly coal, to the Caribbean and Pacific ports. In 2005 a total of 27.5 million metric tons of cargo were transported by rail. The nation's rail network links seven of the country's 10 major cities. During 2004-6, approximately 2,000 kilometers of the country's rail lines underwent refurbishment. This upgrade involved two main projects: the 1,484-kilometer line linking Bogotá to the Caribbean Coast and the 499-kilometer Pacific coastal network that links the industrial city of Cali and the surrounding coffee-growing region to the port of Buenaventura.
The three main north-south highways are the Caribbean, Eastern, and Central Trunk Highways (troncales). Estimates of the length of Colombia's road system in 2004 ranged from 115,000 kilometers to 145,000 kilometers. However, according to 2005 data reported by the Colombian government, the road network totaled 163,000 kilometers, 68 percent of which were paved and in good condition. The increase may reflect some newly built roads. President Uribe has vowed to pave more than 2,500 kilometers of roads during his administration, and about 5,000 kilometers of new secondary roads were being built in the 2003-6 period. Despite serious terrain obstacles, almost three-quarters of all cross-border dry cargo is now transported by road, 105,251 metric tons in 2005.
Highways are managed by the Colombian Ministry of Transport through the National Roads Institute. The security of the highways in Colombia is managed by the Highway Police unit of the Colombian National Police. Colombia is crossed by the Panamerican Highway.
Seaports handle around 80 percent of international cargo. In 2005 a total of 105,251 metric tons of cargo were transported by water. Colombia's most important ocean terminals are Barranquilla, Cartagena, and Santa Marta on the Caribbean Coast and Buenaventura and Tumaco on the Pacific Coast. Exports mostly pass through the Caribbean ports of Cartagena and Santa Marta, while 65 percent of imports arrive at the port of Buenaventura. Other important ports and harbors are Bahía de Portete, Leticia, Puerto Bolívar, San Andrés, Santa Marta, and Turbo. Since privatization was implemented in 1993, the efficiency of port handling has increased greatly.
The main inland waterways total about 18,200 kilometers, 11,000 kilometers of which are navigable by riverboats. A well-developed and important form of transport for both cargo and passengers, inland waterways transport approximately 3.8 million metric tons of freight and more than 5.5 million passengers annually. Main inland waterways are the Magdalena-Cauca River system, which is navigable for 1,500 kilometers; the Atrato, which is navigable for 687 kilometers; the Orinoco system of more than five navigable rivers, which total more than 4,000 kilometers of potential navigation (mainly through Venezuela); and the Amazonas system, which has four main rivers totaling 3,000 navigable kilometers (mainly through Brazil). The government is planning an ambitious program to more fully utilize the main rivers for transport. In addition, the navy's riverine brigade has been patrolling waterways more aggressively in order to establish safer river transport in the more remote areas in the south and east of the country.
The merchant marine totals 17 ships (1,000 gross registered tons or more), including four bulk, 13 cargo, one container, one liquefied gas, and three petroleum tanker ships. Colombia also has seven ships registered in other countries (Antigua and Barbuda, two; Panama, five).
All public airports in Colombia are managed and controlled by the Special Administrative Unit of Civil Aeronautics.
Colombia has well-developed air routes and an estimated total of 984 airports, 100 of which have paved runways, plus two heliports. Of the 74 main airports, 20 can accommodate jet aircraft. Two airports are more than 3,047 meters in length, nine are 2,438-3,047 meters, 39 are 1,524-2,437 meters, 38 are 914-1,523 meters, 12 are shorter than 914 meters, and 880 have unpaved runways. The government has been selling its stake in local airports in order to allow their privatization. The country has 40 regional airports, and the cities of Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla, Bucaramanga, Cartagena, Cúcuta, Leticia, Pereira, San Andrés, and Santa Marta have international airports. Bogotá's El Dorado International Airport handles 550 million metric tons of cargo and 22 million passengers a year, making it the largest airport in Latin America in terms of cargo and the third largest in passenger numbers.
Urban transport systems have been developed in Bogotá, Medellín, Cali and Barranquilla. Traffic congestion in Bogotá has been greatly exacerbated by the lack of rail transport. However, this problem has been alleviated somewhat by the development of one of the world's largest and highest capacity Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Systems, known as the TransMilenio (opened 2000), and the restriction of vehicles through a daily, rotating ban on private cars depending on plate numbers. Bogotá's system consists of bus and minibus services managed by both private- and public-sector enterprises. Since 1995 Medellín has had a modern urban railway referred to as the Metro de Medellín, which also connects with the cities of Itagüí, Envigado, and Bello. A BRT line called Transmetro began operating in 2011, with a second line added in 2013. Other cities have also installed BRT systems such as Cali with a six line system (opened 2008), Barranquilla with two lines (opened 2010), Bucaramanga with one line (opened 2010) and Pereira with three lines (opened 2006).