The new year brings new trends to the tourism industry as travelers change the way they travel, have new demands, and seek different kinds of trips. Colombia is approaching these shifts as an opportunity to continue promoting its destinations internationally and attracting visitors from around the world.
Several studies carried out by consultants and organizations such as the World Tourism Organization indicate that travelers are increasingly considering green, sustainable travel and ecotourism when choosing a destination. Climate change and its effect on the environment has set off alarm bells, so people are currently looking for destinations where tourism respects the environment as well as cultural wealth and local communities.
ProColombia President Flavia Santoro confirmed this, explaining that the country is making steady progress in this regard. "Currently, it is imperative that we offer sustainable experiences. In Colombia, our natural treasures are already being protected by two important initiatives, including the new General Law of Tourism, which formally protects the environment and local communities. Additionally, we have established the Sustainable Tourism Policy, which makes us one of 20 countries in the world with this type of policy."
This trend is giving rise to meaningful travel, which focuses on travelers having a purpose when visiting a destination—making a positive impact or legacy that helps transform communities and supports their development. For example, Colombia provides these types of experiences through community-based tourism. In fact, in November 2021, Medellín hosted the Meaningful Travel Summit, organized by ProColombia, Tourism Cares (an organization dedicated to supporting social projects through the travel industry), and Impulse Travel (a Colombian tour operator).
The purpose of this event was for 30 tourism industry professionals from the United States and Canada to witness how tourism can create opportunities for dignified livelihoods and provide alternative jobs and economic investments in order to reduce negative social and environmental impacts through meaningful conversations and hands-on experiences. The idea was to inspire tourism professionals to incorporate and support local social enterprises and experiences, increasing their positive social, economic, and environmental impact.
Furthermore, the term "ed-ventures" is being used more and more frequently. According to the World Tourism Organization and Ostelea (a tourism management school in Spain), this type of trip combines education with a family vacation; that is, parents can work from anywhere, while their children enjoy other leisure activities.
In fact, an Airbnb study showed that from summer 2019 to summer 2021, family travel increased from 27% to 33% worldwide in the number of nights booked. In the United States, 42% of the nights booked in 2021 were in rural destinations, compared to 32% in summer 2019.
This trend is related to digital nomads, a concept that has continued to gain popularity throughout the world since its emergence in the midst of the pandemic. “Digital nomads” refers to those whose lifestyle allows them to work remotely from anywhere in the world while enjoying ample freedom of movement.
A 2020 research study from MBO Partners found that 10.9 million American workers currently describe themselves as digital nomads—a 49% increase compared to 2019. Colombia provides a number of experiences for this niche; in fact, cities such as Medellín, Bogotá, and Cartagena have already begun to position themselves.
"In addition, Colombia is beginning to offer incentives to continue receiving this type of traveler, since they are key to reactivating the tourism industry," stated Santoro. She added, "In Law 2069 of 2020, a special visa for digital nomads, entrepreneurs, and remote workers was set forth in Article 16, incorporating flexibility for stays longer than 180 days.”
ProColombia has even identified approximately 105 hotels throughout several regions that provide services for extended stays. In addition, several initiatives have been developed, including Extended Stay Colombia, a consortium of lodging providers and tourism agencies that aim to position the country in this segment.
William Schwind, the project’s creator, says that Colombia’s cost of living is lower than most places in the world. "In addition, it has great weather, amazing city life, a scenic countryside, beautiful beaches, warm people, a good health system, and close proximity to the U.S. No other country in the world comes close to what Colombia has to offer to digital nomads and retirees. I think we will see many people buy property here and become residents by way of investor visas. One of our missions with Extended Stay is to get people to learn about Colombia. We are sure that they will love it and want to come back," he explained.
This is confirmed by studies such as International Living, which ranks Colombia as the fourth best country for retirees due to its cost of living, and Numbeo, the world’s largest cost of living database, where Colombia is ranked in the ninth place.