There has been a huge tourism impact of coronavirus in Colombia but Colombia plans to start to reactivate tourism in Colombia starting on September 1.

Before the pandemic, tourism was an increasingly important sector in Colombia’s economy. Foreign visitors to Colombia grew 300 percent between 2006 and 2019.

In 2019, 4.5 million non-residents visited Colombia. The industry employs about 1.4 million in Colombia and contributes about 3.8 percent to GDP.

In 2019, hotel occupancy in Colombia was 57.8 percent. Then came the pandemic. The closure of travel to Colombia, closing of borders and closing travel in Colombia pushed hotel occupancy below 3 percent nationally.

The impact of the quarantine and coronavirus is more than just foreign tourists, it is also impacting Colombian tourists that are no longer visiting popular tourist locations such as Cartagena and Santa Marta due to travel restrictions during the quarantine.

However, starting on September 1, travel for tourism in Colombia will be permitted with the quarantine ending and domestic travel resuming.

Cartagena on Colombia's Caribbean Coast

Cartagena on Colombia’s Caribbean Coast

The Travel and Tourism Market in Colombia

The Travel and Tourism market represents approximately 3.8 percent of Colombia’s GDP and is the third leading source of foreign exchange behind oil and coal.

Tourists are also spending more in Colombia. From 2004 to 2018 income from foreign visitors grew by over 400 percent, from $4.7 billion USD in 2004 to more than $20 billion USD in 2018.

International tourists spent an average of $1,470 USD per person, excluding flights. Also, the central bank found that 90 percent of travel revenues were generated by tourists arriving by air.

Avianca Airbus A318 at Medellín’s José María Córdova airport, photo by Andrés Ramírez

Avianca Airbus A318 at Medellín’s José María Córdova airport, photo by Andrés Ramírez

Coronavirus Impacts on the Airline Industry in Colombia

The two largest airlines in in Latin America, servicing Colombia and other international locations have filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. – LATAM and Avianca.

LATAM, the largest airline in Latin America, filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier in May. LATAM was forced to cancel 95 per cent of its flights as the coronavirus pandemic hit Latin America, but announced plans for a gradual recovery of capacity with a fleet of 330 planes, targeting growth of 9 percent in June and 18 percent in July.

Avianca is the second largest airline in Latin America. Avianca filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in May. The bankruptcy postpones Aviana’s obligations to its creditors, giving it time to reorganize its debts or sell parts of the business. Out of all the countries in which Avianca operates, 88 percent have total or partial passenger air transport restrictions.

The extended closure in Colombia is having a devastating effect on the entire travel value chain. Estimates are that revenues generated by airlines operating in Colombia will fall by 55 percent in 2020 as compared to the previous year and that 38,484 direct jobs and 307,200 indirect jobs are at risk.

Aviation in Colombia is a sector of great importance and value. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis it generated more than 600,000 jobs and contributed US$7.5 billion to the country’s GDP, which is about 2.7 percent of Colombia’s GDP.

Hotel Intercontinental in Medellín, photo courtesy of Hotel Intercontinental Medellín

Hotel Intercontinental in Medellín, photo courtesy of Hotel Intercontinental Medellín

Coronavirus Impact on the Hotel Industry in Colombia

Hotel occupancy in Colombia has now dropped below 3 percent. And in May 2020, DANE reported that hotel revenue in Colombia dropped 93.5 percent compared to May 2019.

Colombia had its highest occupation of hotels in 15 years in 2019 at 57.8 percent. And hotel revenue increased 10.6 percent in 2019 compared to 2018.

The cities most hard hit by the pandemic include the tourist cities of Cartagena, Santa Marta and San Andres. These three cities normally have the highest hotel occupancy in Colombia.

View of Cartagena, Colombia

View of Cartagena, Colombia

Reactivate Tourism: Recovery of the Tourism Sector

Colombia has started to resume domestic flights in Colombia and the national quarantine in Colombia ends on September 1.

The Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, José Manuel Restrepo, confirmed on August 26 that as of September 1, Colombians will be able to enjoy tourist activities, using biosafety measures.

Also, Colombia launched a national tourism promotion campaign: “Colombia without you is not Colombia”

After five months of closure, the Government announced that the country will be able to resume its tourism activity gradually as of September 1.

As explained by the vice minister of tourism, Julián Guerrero, the only restricted activities are bars, discos, events and the consumption of alcohol in public spaces or in commercial establishments.

Will you be able to travel as a family by road from next week?

Yes. Starting on September 1, travel is allowed for tourist activities. There are no inter-municipal or air transport restrictions.

Is domestic air transport reactivated?

Yes. But this does not mean that as of September 1 there will be the same routes and frequencies as in January.

Domestic flights will be gradually increased due to not having the same demand. The first phase of domestic air connectivity includes Bogotá, Rionegro, Medellín, Cali, Cartagena, Barranquilla, Santa Marta and Pereira; the main airports in the country.

Can you go to beaches?

Starting on September 1, going to beaches will be permitted, a beach biosafety protocol should be ready very soon.

The Ministry of Health is developing a protocol for citizen behavior in public space, which will have to be taken into consideration.

Computer generated image of COVID-19, photo by Felipe Esquivel Reed

Computer generated image of COVID-19, photo by Felipe Esquivel Reed

Medellin Guru’s Coronavirus Series

Medellin Guru has a series of articles about the coronavirus pandemic and the impacts in Colombia: Also, these articles are being kept up-to-date, as this is a fast-moving topic:

Things to do near Santa Marta

Things to do near Santa Marta

The Bottom Line: Tourism Impact of Coronavirus: Colombia Starts to Reactivate Tourism

On September 1, Colombia ends its national quarantine and domestic travel in Colombia for tourism will start to be permitted, as Colombia starts to reactivate tourism.

So, the tourism sector in Colombia can start to recover. Domestic flights are resuming but there is no confirmation from the Colombian government with an exact date when international flights will resume.

The are tens of thousands of businesses in the tourism sector in Colombia that have been devastated by coronavirus. So, hopefully starting to reactivate tourism will permit many of these businesses to survive.

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