Interview: María Claudia Lacouture
What are the main challenges and opportunities facing the development of the tourism sector?
MARIA CLAUDIA LACOUTURE: Having a peaceful environment in Colombia will mean there is more territory for tourism development. This will require increasing the offer of new tourism products, strengthening destinations throughout the country and expanding the number of companies operating in the sector. We will focus on incorporating productivity and innovation to achieve modern, competitive tourism through an efficient articulation and presentation of the many touristic destinations Colombia offers. To do so we must identify the industry’s needs and the bottlenecks that require solutions and focus on working in collaboration with the government for effective solutions based on the actions taken by all those involved in the value chain.
In terms of opportunities we are very optimistic about foreign investment. The new security conditions resulting from the peace deal have improved confidence and expectations in Colombia. The government approved a reduction of income taxes to encourage the construction and remodelling of hotels in areas with populations of less than 200,000 inhabitants. This will pay dividends to the tourism industry as – thanks to the end of the conflict – it can promote destinations that were previously impossible to access. Now we will be able to take domestic and foreign tourists to these places and thus we will develop the full potential of the country. We have established 12 tourist corridors, which highlight areas in the country that already have attractive prospects and enhanced infrastructure, as well as those areas with a lot of potential to offer unique experiences to our visitors. These plans are also attractive options for investors.
How far has Colombia built up its industrial base and enhanced the value addition of its products?
LACOUTURE: Colombian industry is one of the sectors boosting the economy. It grew 2% in the third quarter of 2016, above national GDP growth. From January to October of that year manufacturing production grew 3.8%, driven by the sectors prioritised in the Productive Development Policy. This highlights the expansion of the manufacturing sector at the national level and throughout Colombia’s regions, through the strategies proposed by the government for their growth.
From a regional perspective, we have prioritised six productive sectors, namely, agri-food, metal mechanics, “industry 4.0”, tourism, fashion and chemicals. Our goal is to boost the productive chains that allow businesses to transform goods, add value to them, innovate, be competitive and expand our export basket while assuring sustainability over time.
We add up the potential that each region of the country offers by developing the available tools at the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism in order to achieve our goal of diversifying the goods and services that we sell in foreign markets.
What trade strategy is Colombia pursuing with foreign countries, and how would you characterise commercial relations with China and India?
LACOUTURE: Our trade policy is focused on utilising and deepening the 13 trade agreements already in place rather than searching for others. We have already enriched the trade agreement with the Northern Triangle of Central America and made progress with Brazil in the automotive sector, and we are also negotiating with Argentina. This objective, combined with the work we are undertaking with the region’s business leaders to be more productive, more competitive and to add value to products and increase our exports, will boost our sales abroad of non-mining energy goods.
China and India are both export destinations for Colombia. China is the fourth-largest buyer of our goods, and with India we have seen commercial and economic relations flourish in recent years, with greater and more varied export and import facilities.
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