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Colombia Attracts Record Number Of Foreign Visitors In '07
Dow Jones
About 1.27 million foreigners visited Colombia in 2007, up from 1.05 million in 2006 and only 567,000 in 2002, Plata said. The 2007 figure was in line with the 1.3 million foreign visitors the government expected.

Foreign tourists spent about $2.5 billion during the year, the minister added, citing preliminary figures.

"What is more important is not so much how many people came, but how much money they spent," he added.

The number of travelers in 2007 surpassed the previous record of 1.12 million in 1980.

The number of foreign visitors to Colombia fell in the 1980s and 1990s as a result of violence spurred by rebel groups and drug traffickers, Plata said.

Since 2002, crime and violence have fallen dramatically in Colombia and areas controlled by violent groups shrank. Government officials and businesses attribute the reduction in violence to the strong stance against violence enforced by President Alvaro Uribe's administration.

Plata said the country has the potential to further boost the number of foreign visitors to 3-4 million each year in the coming years.

In recent years, the Colombian government has launched campaigns to promote tourism.

"Safety was the big issue. It didn't make sense to spend in promoting tourism to a country where people didn't feel secure enough to visit. Now it makes sense," Plata added.

The trade and tourism ministry plans to spend $10 million to promote tourism in Colombia in 2008 through television and newspaper ads. The ministry will also take journalists and travel agency owners to Colombia to make the country better-known abroad.

As more travelers visit Colombia, several companies such as Marriott International Inc. (MAR), Hilton Hotels Corp. and Spain's NH Hoteles SA (NHH.MC) are investing in building new hotels in the country.

To encourage companies to increase the supply of tourist accommodation facilities, the government currently offers a 30-year corporate tax exemption to companies that open new hotels or refurbish old ones.

-By Inti Landauro, Dow Jones Newswires; 57-1-600 19 80; colombia@dowjones.com

  (END) Dow Jones Newswires
  01-10-08 1513ET
  Copyright (c) 2008 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Colombia drew record tourists in 2007
 
Jan. 10, 2008 (Thomson Financial delivered by Newstex) --

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) - Colombia attracted a record number of foreign visitors in 2007, as falling violence and increased advertising encouraged travelers to take a chance on the former kidnapping capital of the world, the government said Thursday.

Nearly 1.3 million foreigners visited Colombia in 2007, up from 1.05 million in 2006 and more than double the number of visitors in 2002, Trade and Tourism Minister Luis Guillermo Plata said. Early figures show foreign tourists spent about $2.5 billion in Colombia last year, he added.

Colombia's Caribbean beaches, cosmopolitan cities and Andean peaks were for decades one of South America's top tourist destinations, drawing 1.12 million foreign visitors in 1980 -- the previous record.

But foreign visitors then turned away in the 1980s, as leftist rebels intensified their war on the state and rival drug cartels competed for control of the country's lucrative cocaine trade.

A turning point came with the 2002 election of President Alvaro Uribe, who used $700 million in annual U.S. aid to beef up the military, causing a sharp drop in the kidnapping and homicide rates that were once among the highest in the world.

'Safety was the big issue. It didn't make sense to spend to promote tourism to a country where people didn't feel secure enough to visit. Now it makes sense,' Plata said, noting that Colombia has earmarked $10 million for tourism ads in 2008 and could soon draw as many as 4 million visitors a year.

Increased safety is also bringing a boom in foreign direct investment, much of it in the tourism industry. Marriott International Inc. (NYSE:MAR) , Hilton Hotels Corp. and Spain's NH Hoteles SA are among those now investing in new Colombian hotels.


Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


																


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