Published on : Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Top executives representing 20 US tour operator companies gathered in Colombia from May 5 to 12 for the United States Tour Operators Association’s (USTOA) Annual Out of Country Meeting. Colombia was delegated as the 2017 Out of Country Meeting destination in 2014 and this was the first time the destination hosted a USTOA meeting.
“The hospitality of the Colombian people comes straight from their heart and is immediately warm and genuine, it’s something every traveler will feel when visiting this colorful and lively destination,” said Terry Dale, president and CEO of USTOA. “USTOA’s Out of Country Meeting allows our delegation a deep immersion into a destination and hands-on experiences that help them construct more impactful and complete travel packages. We salute ProColombia and all the Colombian partners that helped craft such an enriching and thoughtful itinerary.”
“Colombia has one of the greatest success and transformation stories in the world, as we come from an adverse past but have a promising future,” said Felipe Jaramillo, President of ProColombia. “Today, people find a country at peace, with more opportunities and regions for tourism and investment. The increasing number of foreign tourists to Colombia, which is above the world average; the returning of the cruise lines; and the recommendations made by leading international publications to visit our destinations, such as Lonely Planet, are some examples of how the world’s perception of Colombia has changed.”
During the eight day itinerary, USTOA members visited key tourism sites within the cities of Bogotá, Medellín and Cartagena. Highlights included the Gold Museum, Bolivar Square and the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá in Bogotá; the Museum of Antioquia with a private tour by Fernando Botero’s granddaughter, the Commune 13 and the Botanical Garden in Medellín; and the San Felipe Fortress and a historical city center walking tour in Cartagena.
On May 11, ProColombia hosted a Colombian supplier networking event where the attending USTOA Active Members held appointments with 50 tourism suppliers from across the country. USTOA also donated $5,000 to the Mocoa Disaster Relief Fund to help support relief efforts in the Mocoa communities impacted by the devastating mudslides that tore through the region in early April.
ProColombia joined USTOA as an Associate Member in 2008 and today works with nearly 30 Active Members of USTOA. Additional Colombian supplier companies belonging to USTOA range from ground operators and hotel and resorts, to airports and more.
Lonely Planet named Colombia as the second best destination to visit on 2017. In meeting tourism, Colombia has climbed seven spots in the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) ranking over the last eight years and in 2017 ranks in the 29th position. Additionally, according ICCA, Colombia is the third ranked Latin American country for hosting meetings and world events.
Migration Colombia reports that the United States emits the most travelers to Colombia. In 2012, Colombia welcomed 328,886 United States travelers. In 2016, that number grew by 51.7% to 498,960 United States travelers visiting the destination. “Tourism is the second most important industry in terms of economy, coming in after oil, but surpassing coal and other minerals, coffee, flowers, and bananas,” added Jaramillo.