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Think you know Colombia? Think again

Colombia’s capital city, BogotaFor many years Colombia was considered a wild destination suitable only for the risk prone and adventurous. It even appeared on the no fly list of many countries due to drug wars, high crime rates, and a struggling economy.

But all that has changed. Colombia is South America’s new darling. Today the biggest risk most new visitors face is never wanting to leave.

Colombia’s comeback has turned it into a beacon of progress, transforming the country into an attractive destination for tourists and foreign investment. As the Condé Nast Traveler put it: “Crime is down, business is booming, and the restaurant scene is so hot that the food world’s biggest names are flying in for a taste.”

About 48 million people live in Colombia. The population is ethnically diverse, with a unique combination of indigenous tribes and immigrants from Spain, Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. They have melded to create one of the world’s most diverse and vibrant cultural scenes.

Among Colombia’s suprising cultural exports are Shakira, Sofia Vergara, Paulina Vega (Miss Universe), Juanes, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and the Colombian Soccer team.

Ecologically, Colombia is one of the world’s 17 megadiverse countries. There are beaches, the snow covered Andean mountains, and the Amazon jungles. Yet it’s still one of the best kept tourism secrets.

Colombia’s strategic location and economy offer many advantages as an entry point for the Latam market. It has become an ideal HQ hub for international companies to direct operations and interests in the Americas.

The workforce boasts an unrivaled linguistic level compared with other Latam neighbors. Thanks to long-term government-funded programs, Colombia has the highest rate of English-language proficiency among the Spanish-speaking world. Wages are affordable, powering the economy to become the fourth largest in Latin America.

The Colombian government has successfully stimulated direct foreign investment. FDI has grown steadily for the past five years and has now reached nearly $17 billion. The most popular sectors attracting FDI are oil and gas, manufacturing, transportation, and communications.

The highest levels of foreign investment in Colombia now originate from the United States, Spain, and Sweden.  And the government has signed free trade agreements with the U.S., Canada, the EU, China, and South Korea, which are projected to stimulate further large-scale investment.

As a Colombian working for the past decade to help North American and European companies “discover” Colombia, I’m proud of Colombia’s progress and its leading role in Latin America. It’s now true — the biggest risk for new visitors is that they’ll never want to leave.


José Da Silva is the founder and CEO of Vantech Group. From offices in Latin America and Miami, Vantech combines specialized consulting, tailored outsourcing, compliance systems and enhanced due diligence, and cutting-edge technology to help companies entering and operating in Latin America. He can be contacted here.

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  1. What are they doing in Colombia to combat corruption? The conclusion that a country is not safe often derives from the perception that the government is corrupt. Thank you.

  2. The biggest problem facing Colombia is corruption. Americans cannot fathom how disturbingly serious the problem is. Most public monies are stolen without anybody doing anything about it given that all branches of government are involved in defrauding all public entities. Since nobody knows how much is actually lost to corruption, HonestAmerica (an anti-corruption organization based in NYC) carried out a survey of perceived corruption in the city of Cartagena and the state (department) of Bolivar. Conclusion: 71% of all public monies in Cartagena and Bolivar are lost to corruption. This comes out to US$700 million per year.

  3. Colombia has made great strides in attracting tourism. However, it lacks any efforts to attack clientelism and establish proper accountability mechanisms to attack corruption. One could argue that corruption has boosted Colombia's economy.

  4. Colombia has became in a great investment destination, government promotes foreign investment without mentioning the beauty of the country. Great article.

  5. It is hard to deny that corruption is still a major problem. And it has always been worst in the Caribbean Coast (where Cartagena, Barranquilla and Sta. Marta are located). But it must be said that it is more in the news nowadays than ever before because more people are denouncing it, the papers are reporting it; the civil society is sick of it so the attitude has changed. But the judicial system is still slow and inefficient and corrupt officials know that. At the same Money Laundering controls are strict so it is harder for corrupt officials to disguise money.

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