Seven years ago, it was hard to imagine the impressive wave of tourism Colombia is seeing today. Last year, tourism in Colombia reached a new all-time high, with over four million people visiting the country.
Just after the coffee industry, tourism has become one of the biggest incomes for Colombia, having a huge direct impact on the lives of many Colombians. Infact, tourism alone has created over 22,000 legal jobs for the country. In addition to this, we are seeing an equal number of informal jobs on the rise. For example; street vendors selling sombreros, ponchos and bracelets for just 5,000 COP ($1.50), to accommodate the influx of tourists on the hunt for souvenirs.
Tourism has changed the Colombian way of living for good and there are many innovative concepts that are supporting this trend, like sustainable tourism. There has been a huge growth of ecological and sustainable experiences being offered in areas that used to be extremely dangerous to visit due to the 90’s drug war. But in today's current climate, these areas are now seen as some of the best travel destinations for intrepid adventurers, such as the Amazon, Caño Cristales, Nuqui, Bahía solano and many places in the south of Colombia.
But you might ask...
How is tourism seen and received by the locals in Colombia?
Well, not everybody is happy with these big changes, not because they don't want to see their country progressing, but because with increased tourism, comes internal problems like prostitution (one of the biggest illegal industries) and drugs.
In the end, not everything is negative.
With increased tourism, the knowledge of Colombians continues to grow. Many of them now speak more than 3 languages and most are learning about sustainability practices and eco-tourism. In addition to this, companies are starting to invest in their employees, helping them to improve their customer service skills whilst at the same time breaking down important cultural barriers.
It is also possible to observe the opening of Colombians with foreigners; not only with the young people but the older generation too. Don Ramon, an 80-year-old who lives in Medellin is a key example of this. He has a small restaurant in the Manila neighborhood which offers a complete menu for 12,000 COP for all passing travellers who are looking for food that fits within their budget. Another example is Don Andrés, a third-generation farmer from Jardin (3 hours away of Medellin) who has changed the way coffee is sowed on his land. He found an opportunity in tourism to improve his lifestyle by giving personal tours to all travellers who want to learn more about the coffee production process.
Both kind of tourism, the bad and the good, have created a deep transformation to the reality of Colombia. One is sadly in keeping with Colombia’s dark past, but the other one is improving the lifestyle of the locals every single day. Not only does this increased tourism transform the quality of life for the locals, but it also gives them a new opportunity to show that
Colombia is so much more than the violence of its past.
Hopefully, as Colombian’s, we are now showing to all the parents of the tourists who come and visit us, that their children are safe in Colombia and that what is seen and heard in the news, is not the current reality of our country. In the end the biggest satisfaction for us, is to change people's perspective and have them go back home with one of our favorite sentences;
“You should go to Colombia”.
Here is where an entrepreneurial company was born.
Capture Colombia Tours has been created by Colombians who want to change existing paradigms.
We want to shine a spotlight on sustainable tourism and give a full and complete experience of what it means to be Colombian. With research and time, we have discovered the importance of showing Colombia through local eyes and offering insights as to why you should travel to our beautiful country.
We want to give a message of what we as a country have, from our past to our present and into our future. We hope that through sharing our stories on the tour, we can personally impact each and every traveller who comes along for the journey with us.
We are still learning, which is what makes our job so exciting and enjoyable. We are learning to adapt our approach and storytelling depending on the travellers and learning how to capture our message in only a few hours of meeting new people. It is not the same to work with Europeans, Americans, Asian or even Colombians. All of them are different and that is why we have decided to focus on the best we can offer as friendly and open people looking to share our stories from a local perspective.
Tourism has changed the lives of many, including us, with all the new people and friends, we developed the perfect strategy to show the history of Colombia in the right way. Respecting every part of the people's suffering, whilst showing a true representation of our past, especially Medellin where we run most of our tours from.
With determination, we have overpassed the stereotype of being the most dangerous place in the world
to become one of the most innovative cities in the world, as rated in 2013.
But there is a new challenge. With peace now reigning across Colombia, there is now the opportunity to explore the country at an even deeper level. To find new places that nobody knows about and to create new memories and a sense of wonder in everything we do. But the most important thing, is offering meaningful moments for travellers with all kinds of budgets,