For 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.